A Symptom of the End of an Era

Many of us in the blogosphere are keeping an eye on Tom Brokaw's retirement. Many in the mainstream media are too, and using phrases like "end of an era" to describe it. On our end, we know better. The twin retirements of ikons Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather are part of a long process that started years ago, when mass audiences first started browsing, or even before. They are only a late development. Real earth-moving changes rarely happen overnight. The revolution in daily life brought about by the automobile, for instance, didn't knock the whole nation of farms over all at once, nor did the Industrial Revolution. They spread slowly. Brokaw's retirement is a noteworthy event, but the era was already ending.

This article by the Seattle Times TV critic reveals a great gatekeeper misconception about information dispersal:

Certainly, viewers could not have had a more diverse choice than the styles offered by Jennings, Rather and Brokaw. The first, cool and urbane; the second, aggressive and crusading; the third, down to earth and intimate.

Oh, viewers could have had a more diverse choice of styles, and now they're getting it. When the Big Three started broadcasting there was, as far as I'm aware, no such term as "news junkie." It wasn't possible to be watching news all day. Now there are more outlets than I care to investigate spewing news. I stay fairly well updated on what's going on in the world and I can't remember the last time I saw any of the Big Three on television.

The article does contain a little bit of uncharacteristic wisdom from Brokaw when he says

As long as we provide a broadcast that's relevant to people's lives, that tells them what they need to know, there will be a reason for the evening news to exist.

...but he isn't aware of it. He's completely right, except he sees the evening news continuing to be a force, and I think it's fast becoming an artifact of the time before news channels and the Web. People seem to be increasingly unwilling to accept idols who hand down "what they need to know" now that it is so easy to gets lots of stories and decide for themselves what they need to know.

Take 'er easy, Tom. Check out Google News now that you have some free time. You'll be amazed at what's out there.

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The Economist agrees in an

The Economist agrees in an article on Dan Rather's retirement:

Given America's fractious politics, it is easy to look at Mr Rather's retirement merely in terms of a left v right scorecard. But, more fundamentally, it is about choice.

Great link Mark, thanks for

Great link Mark, thanks for the heads-up. Highlights:

"But the new media are simply too anarchic and subversive for any single political faction to take control of them."

"Mr Rather's passing does not mean that the liberal orthodoxy is about to give way to a new conservative one. It means that all orthodoxies are being chewed up by a voraciously unpredictable news media, which is surely all to the good."

I haven't watched any TV

I haven't watched any TV news in years. It's irrelevent.

There so much more, here...in cyberspace.

I discovered that "google"

I discovered that "google" is a really fun word to write on my PDA's grafitti pad.