Ennui & Uncertainty in Journalism: If you have 2 watches do you know the time?

David Nordfors (Ctr of Innovation Journalism) summarized one of my biggest problems in dealing with the overabundance of media sources these days. He said: “If you have a watch you know what time it is but if you have two your are uncertain”. This was a little snippet in a Future Talk discussion he had with Tony Deifell (author of The Big Thaw).

Modern technology has put a clock on everything, my computer, my microwave, my tv, my iphone, my oven, my phone, not to mention my actual alarm clock (never use it) and my watch. A temporary loss of power is a nightmare. But all these clocks pale in comparison to the onslaught of news and opinion I get through TV, Phone, RSS, Twitter, forget it, the list is too long.

This barrage creates 2 huge problems: Ennui & Uncertainty

1. Ennui. By the end of the day I feel as if I have been through 365 news cycles. So, I’m numb to them. I was talking to Paul Boutin last week (pitching him my story – he is a very patient man) and he was talking about the fact that Haiti needs to continue to be a news story. While most of the media has moved on, he pointed out that CNN has dedicated huge resources to keeping it a story. I said that I understood how people might feel they have to move on (as wrong as that is) because I had heard Haiti stories non-stop for days. In another time it would have taken weeks or months for me to get all that.

2. Uncertainty. Everything is enormously inter-related and complex. It is impossible to tell the whole story (if there is one) and it’s easy just to tell the part of the story that is most controversial, titillating or serves to make your point. Health care is the best illustration of this recently (perhaps ever). Recently I heard that half the people who are not covered by insurance can easily afford it and just choose not to get it. This was followed by the statement that half the other half (25%) are illegal immigrants. I was skeptical. But I have no idea whether it’s true.

One of the most interesting parts of the very interesting discussion between these two guys is the distinctions between journalism, activism and PR. They then go on to espouse declarative, transparent journalism having acknowledged that their is no such thing as objectivity. In declarative journalism the journalist makes clear their position, bias, interests, etc. I can just see Fox News jumping on that, NOT.

Are you overwhelmed, uncertain, do you have a strategy for getting through it? Any help would be much appreciated.


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