Thinking about old-school journalism…like five years ago.

Had a chat with a coworker of mine the other day. He had run across a book–or I should say had run across a blog post about a book. The book was about how the Internet (and some other present-trends) was leading us to become less intelligent. The book-to-blog summary described how people could glean a few surface details about a subject, digest them quickly and move on, thinking they knew enough about a subject.

Not unlike this blog–or blogging in general, I suppose.

And it got me thinking. At first, of course, as a champion of all things current and now, I grew a little defensive. I cited the arrival of the 24-hour news cycle and the obsession with the 7-second soundbite in our political spheres as equal measures of evidence toward such a shallowing of the pool of human thought. But I suppose the Internet and social media had its share of the blame for things. So I relented in my stance that finger-pointing should continue. Blogs vs. lazy journalism vs. business, etc.

Then yesterday I had the chance to meet with a veteran newsman–an Air Force public affairs chief master sergeant. Veteran in terms that he had pre-dated the official arrival of social network in our professional spheres–a feat most of us qualify for, as it’s only been less than a decade since journalism was more like the Fourth Estate of centuries past and not like the Bieber-entranced drool machines of late. Not “veteran” in terms of being old or any veiled insult that readers may imply while scanning over these words.

Veteran in that I respected his experience, and he, mine. We talked a bit about how the Web has made a lazy bunch out of many military journalists. How, apart from any undue shaking of fists at the arrival of the present, the past’s reliance on newspapers–replete with deadlines and gruff editors, forced writers to produce. And what’s more, to produce works people would wish to read. And in timely manners, no less.

This editor friend of mine talked in examples about how, when in times past, covering sports or certain VIP visits to bases, he would have to rush back and spend some evening hours to hammer out stories. And since these stories often HAD to appear in that week’s paper, there was often not time to parade versions and opinions around. The slightly-olden journalist had to get it right the first time. Thinking to now, some five-10 years later, he described how his staffs leisurely get around to posting stories occasionally. Since the Web is always there, things lose a sense of urgency. Also, since it was so easy to change content, my editor friend described what I’ve heard from a dozen other journalists as story “coordination”. In this lovely phenomenon, stories are emailed around to a small army of would-be critics, who quibble and gripe about every noun, phrase and piece of jargon–a kitchen full of chefs, cooking stew.

So many journalists, because of the time-intensive nature of coordination in military journalism, get around to maybe posting a story every week or so.

The point is, apart from the numbers, where people can argue and say they are better because they post more…

…the point is, the web may have cheapened our ability to produce and or think to the level we ought.

Military journalists often don’t have to think through their work because they realize a half-dozen writers are going to weigh in on their words anyway. So why try? Digital cameras let people “spray and pray” that a good photo comes out of a batch of 1,000, rather than carefully choosing when to let loose an exposure on a painfully short roll of film.

And the pundits, bloggers, writers…we can spout out a billion entries across a billion blogs every day, but to what end, eh? The person with the best 7-second soundbite wins anyway, because who has time to actually get to the meat of a thing? Who has time to think about the impact of words and sentiment?

I might end up buying that book. Seems to be worth looking into, rather than just spouting off a few ‘graphs and moving on.


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About salemonz

Born in San Diego, Calif. Raised as a Navy Brat, I jumped ship and crossed over to the Army. Served as an enlisted journalist for a bunch of years, then helped the DoD figure out what the hell to do with social media. After the Army, now I drift down the river of life, trying not to be a jerk.

One response to “Thinking about old-school journalism…like five years ago.”

  1. aftigger says :

    Interesting! I have to ask if this is someone in town this week at the same workshop I’m doing the recording for. Also, I’m curious of the book alluded to – what, pray tell, is the title? Hope all is well with the USAA peeps!

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