Too much of it is either like junk food that temporarily tickles our fancy, or like comfort food that does little but reinforce our existing beliefs and ideologies. With evolving media technology, it’s now served up before us before we even ask for it. Actual regular allegiance to any one media source is increasingly rare.
Social media is an incredible and powerful tool, no doubt worth more to society than the trouble it can cause. But it also creates so much constant noise. At least we get to see what our cousins in Alatoona ate for dinner each night last week – and wow, they sure do eat well!
Unfortunately, many pundits in popular media avoid asking the most important questions, and when they do those questions are too often loaded toward an agenda or an ego (to see Fox News attack real journalists like Bill Moyers, a guy who actually does ask excellent questions, is especially disheartening).
Looking back at journalism school, this is not how it was supposed to be. I was managing editor of my college newspaper, and I started my career as a reporter writing about sprawl development in the 1990s for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (You can bet there was plenty to write about!) By my mid-20s I landed my first front page story and had another picked up by the New York Times Wire Service. In grad school I studied mass communication – the sociology of media – learning all of the evils of a world where technology, money and media combined to propagate distraction and fear. Through it all, and although the eventual demise of the newspaper industry was clear even back then, I vehemently believed in all the potential the profession held.
Lord knows I could have pursued more financially lucrative opportunities. During one brief stint writing at a suburban newspaper (or should I say, writing an entire suburban newspaper), I think my annual pre-tax salary was about $20,000.
At the age of 27 I was hired as a business journalist. I worked as a reporter and columnist for a "local" business journal run by a multinational media conglomerate that actually owned the city’s major daily newspaper as well. At this job, a former editor and mentor instilled in me that the job of a business journalist is to “thin the pack” of those in the business world that were cheating and lying to succeed. I convinced him to let me pioneer a beat in the emerging yet timeless strategy known as sustainability, which at the time was embraced by just a small fraction of the larger U.S. business community. To not freak anyone out, we gave it a more palatable name: the “Energy and Environment” beat.