Tuesday, May 29, 2007

TV is making you stupid
Al Gore, arguably the planet's most powerful person at the moment, is making the rounds with his new book, "The Assault on Reason." Time has a good excerpt, here.

I'm sure I'll read the book - it has lots of tasty treats like this one about TV:

"To understand the final reason why the news marketplace of ideas dominated by television is so different from the one that emerged in the world dominated by the printing press, it is important to distinguish the quality of vividness experienced by television viewers from the "vividness" experienced by readers. Marshall McLuhan's description of television as a "cool" medium--as opposed to the "hot" medium of print-- was hard for me to understand when I read it 40 years ago, because the source of "heat" in his metaphor is the mental work required in the alchemy of reading. But McLuhan was almost alone in recognizing that the passivity associated with watching television is at the expense of activity in parts of the brain associated with abstract thought, logic, and the reasoning process. Any new dominant communications medium leads to a new information ecology in society that inevitably changes the way ideas, feelings, wealth, power and influence are distributed and the way collective decisions are made."

Poisonally, I'm optimistic about the future of newspapers - not in print, which is all but dead - but online. TV, radio, and the Internet have never duplicated the power of the in-depth reporting of the daily newspapers, and they're getting stupider, not smarter. Newspapers still don't get it, but at least they've got the reporting infrastructure in place when they finally figure it out. It is still impossible to be well informed watching TV alone, especially in local markets, where TV news is all about car wrecks, tainted milk, and the shooting du jour. What's your bet? Will newspapers figure out the new media or will local television stations figure out how to provide meaningful news? If you ask me, that last clause is absolutely gut-bustingly funny and getting funnier as TV news gets ever stupider. As hopelessly clueless as the Courier-Journal is about blogging, neighborhood reporting, and that horrendous web cesspool they call "StoryChat," you've got to admit it's the only true source for in-depth local news - and that the paper's reporting by and large is excellent. I'm predicting the future of Louisville news is online and it'll be branded Courier-Journal.

One nit about Gore's book: The title is all wrong. I get his point, but how a book called "The Assault on Reason" could be about anything other than religion -- the undisputed kings of assaulting reason -- is further proof that letting your publisher name your book is a mistake.

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