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TOTAL LICENSING
you moved by the tan- Murrow, Hans von Kaltenborn – and for gossip, slip and we might change channels or tired from
talizing search by the Walter Winchell. The commentators became reading the day’s load of e-mails, or from carry-
Obama parents for columnists. ing on our intensive exchanges on Facebook and
a suitable hypoaller- Television created its own picture journalism Twitter text messages, and we might fall asleep.
genic pooch that could and instead of purchasing magazines like Life or I realize that I exaggerate for effect (just like the
become “First Dog” Look – you could both hear and see instantly. media) but there is a serious question hidden in
in the White House Then came the big revolution of the internet the humor. Is the world really that funny and would
without endanger- and news purveying became a wide open busi- it not be better for a successfully working democracy
ing Obama’s daughter ness. Television channels multiplied exponential- not to run out of time, and to really know more, to
Malia? ly – the cyberworld with its blogosphere, Face- have more patience, and to listen better to more
book and Twitter all report their own stories or important issues.
Politics Plays Its Part opinions. We, their consuming public, became
Do you remember then President Clinton, and increasingly overfed by choices. Under this on- Does the media circus, as some assert, really
Monica “I Don’t Know That Woman” Lewinsky? slaught of competition the newspaper business dumb us down and make us superficial?
lost substantially from its circulation and with it
Do you remember rising and prominent politi- from its advertising profits, but all the smaller Celebrity Watch
cal stars Governor Eliot Spitzer of New York, cable channels and the low overhead blogs give This brings us to Paris Hilton, Lindsey Lohan,
and Senator and Presidential candidate John Ed- us endless variety and gradually the craft of the Sarah Jessica Parker, Britney Spears, Kevin Fed-
wards, whose other opinions and accomplish- “newspaperman” eroded and everyone who erline, and others.
ments were forgotten as they were exploded could write just a little could find a niche to ex- The media help us to share their romances
out of their careers and transferred to the leper press themselves. Everyone could now be – and and heartbreaks. They live in a fairytale land
colony of untouchables? was – a reporter. of glamour, unattainable to practically all of us.
In each case there were of course victims of the Many of the smaller organizations could not af- But, paparazzi, while pursuing these stars merci-
offenders’ misdeeds – but what great material ford the expensive activity of meticulous fact lessly, help us know more about them, some-
it is to interview, feel sorry for, and sympathize checking, but opinion could of course be voiced times more than they themselves would like
with the victims. It sets you up on the right side as one’s own and didn’t need an expensive staff us to know and the media – pardon me - help
of things - it becomes a sport to lay low the to monitor accuracy. Opinion became king. us peek under their sheets in the bedrooms of
mighty. It contains an element of schadenfreude Competition for listeners made some of us out- their luxury estates. We are living as someone
and it makes us feel better about ourselves. It shout others by hyperbole and sensationalism. said in the “Age of Meritocracy.” Since Hedda
also pays in listener statistics – and that in turn We all listen to each other but particularly we Hopper’s modest interviews with the stars of
brings lucrative advertising – the media after like to hear our own opinion confirmed, so we the 1930s through the 1960s, we have advanced
all are fighting a battle for income and survival started to follow our favorite opinion voicer. through the birth of MTV and US magazine, to
themselves. Commentators divide into opinion camps and the times of David Letterman. Our Presiden-
often play the same quotes over and over as tial candidates must make fun of themselves on
What Changed? – We Changed! they keep quoting each other. Saturday Night Live, Leonardo DiCaprio and
Our perspective changed and the media Oprah share their opinions with us and might
changed. Prominence and Celebrity as Media even influence our decisions.
Fodder Of course, there is really nothing wrong with
What did we call the media long ago? It was There is a symbiotic relationship between media that as such: it is our adoration of celebrity that
principally newspapers that had the capital to sales - the need to feed an audience for end- makes us forget to ask ourselves if talent in music or
field large quantities of reporters and the only less hours (especially if no world-shaking events acting or self-promotion really makes them experts
way the average citizen could keep track of happened that week) - and prominence and ce- in the many bedeviling choices and issues facing us
events in Washington, or his or her state capital, lebrity. The media need to help build celebrity – or is it that we have now been conditioned
or even the far-flung, wide world, was to read to have something to write and speak about, to go so much more by Feeling rather than by
the news items. There were newspaper publish- so in our fast moving scene sound bites follow reasoned educated study. Is this not some sort
ers’ empires and while there was the so-called sound bites. After all, we need something excit- of shortcut and cop-out to the quick, emotional
“yellow press” who mixed the owners’ or pub- ing to talk about at the dinner table, over the answer, which may suit our private lives to make
lishers’ political creed into their reporting; this beer with our buddies, at the office water cool- us good wives, husbands, lovers, children and
was the exception. er break, and while shopping with our friends or parents but will not serve us well in a practical
Schools of journalism made a great distinction stopping at a Starbucks. confusing world?
between provable facts and opinion pieces. To exist the media builds up and then just as And moreover, when we marvel at wealth and
Journalism was a trade – not a profession of cheerfully tears down. They know it’s not amus- glamour that celebrity in entertainment, and yes,
stars. ing to listen to long, rambling speeches in Con- also sports can bring, let us not forget the world
The 1930s started to change all of this. The rise gress – much better and easier to remember a of advertising, product promotion, and endorse-
of dictatorships; Capitalistic Democracy versus funny catchphrase. So, it is we, the public, who ments that our small little individual purchases
Communism; World War II; the growth of ra- force our politicians to be exaggerative, com- support in a big way. The day when Walt Dis-
dio – all of these events gave rise to the famous bative, and funny. When they become detailed, ney’s “Mickey” was the only kid on the block
radio commentators like William Shirer, Robert dry, and boring our short attention span might and Audrey Hepburn, fresh from Breakfast at
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