ADAMCZYK: The thinking person’s guide to modern journalism

Ed Adamczyk

Relax, I’m not going to offer a list of things you should be reading. What you read is your business, and while you’ll eventually be bitten in the butt by situations of which you know nothing due to neglect of staying apprised, the same thing will happen to me, perhaps in other situations. Furthermore, you likely know where to go to learn what you think you need to know – who the Sabres hired, who can offer a deal on snow tires, what to do with three pounds of Christmas crab meat, where to obtain an immunization.

Pondering journalism’s far-reaching capabilities was prompted by the recent announcement of President-elect Joe Biden’s reading list. It’s all East Coast “lamestream media,” to pilfer Sarah Palin’s delicious term. The New York Times, The Economist, the Washington Post, the New Yorker, and much of it the print, and not online, versions. This sounds like the stuff I read, although Sports Illustrated and various guitar technique magazines make it into my mailbox but evidently not Biden’s.

It is self-evident that what one reads and hears, or doesn’t, can shape opinion, which is why some people encourage the work of QAnon, others are horrified by it and still others regard it as a disorderly hoax concocted by some text-slinging kid out for a joke. It is telling that television networks still offer a 30-minute news roundup at 6:30 p.m. for those accustomed to it – and note that its advertising largely concerns medications for health issues typically suffered by the elderly – followed by what was designed by the Federal Communications Commission as a “family hour” of local-produced programming, 7 to 8 p.m., but is generally the spot for showbiz news and gossip.

So you’ve got a half hour of generally-accepted news programming, followed by what some people regard as worthless Hollywood fluff, and others, well, to quote the former slogan of the E! Channel, “We live for this stuff.” I assume that whatever information “Entertainment Tonight” provides is not lies; neither do I think it is news of any value. Take that, the various Ms. Kardashians.

Yeah, what data you suck up influences your thinking. A few hours watching financial news channels, for those who do not follow these matters, can give a person some insight on the problems of faceless corporations, struggling with the costs and uncertainty and layoffs related to the pandemic. A few minutes with ESPN “SportsCenter” and you can better understand what a minefield the virus has made college and professional football.

Fox News? MSNBC? You already know about them, where to find them, how to enjoy or avoid them. If there is some sort of isolation – preaching to the choir, hitting that remote so that you’ll be delivered what you already believe anyway – it’s a self-inflicted wound and a denial of what made the First Amendment famous and precious.

Despite some deeply-held personal involvement in reliance on some but not all of these outlets of information, I generally approve. Newspapers, for years, wore political hearts on their sleeves, notably in areas with two or more papers. There were times, long before cable television, that Buffalo had at least eight daily newspapers, not counting the ones in Polish or German or Italian, The competition was lively, and you could throw down your 3 cents and know what you were getting. Of course they, like cable channels, had business relationships preventing certain opinions from delivery, but the reader had the opportunity to make up his or her mind, providing he or she could read.

Admittedly, I use some of these cable channels more than others. Some can be the daily household d or office background noise, others make me want to throw blunt objects after about three minutes. Some have numerous “direct response” advertisements – if you want the product, all this 800 number -- which bring in less revenue. The advertiser pays by the call received, and not a flat rate, for 30 seconds of air time, so I wonder how financially wobbly, despite their importance, these platforms actually are.

Factor in that it’s older people who still get much of their news from television, if not newspapers, and it’s older people who tend to take voting most seriously. Then let your mind be filled with that exceptional stew of opinion. While I am a big fan of Stephen Colbert, I’d hate to rely on him as my only news source.  

Contact Ed Adamczyk at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.

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