Even though I am a trained journalist, Walter Cronkite’s death came and went like a dozen other obituaries in the paper every day. To be honest, I was more stunned by Tim Russert’s death not only because he was so young (58) but I actually watched him.
I am only 32, born long after the height of the careers of prominent newscasters like Cronkite and Edward Murrow. Unfortunately, I cannot relate to the many nostalgic tributes written on Cronkite’s behalf recently. Take for instance this writer at Open Salon. She — Beth Ingalls — reminisced Cronkite’s coverage of Neil Armstong’s landing on the moon. She remembered how her family gathered around their black and white television to listen to only Cronkite’s words and said no American household could do the same today. They would be too distracted by the simultaneous news casts on the flat-screen, high-definition television, the tweets on their laptops and texts on their cell phones. She showed screen shots of the progression of television throughout the years, which was disturbing in terms of how “cluttered” news has become.
If an event of such enormous magnitude in the history of human civilization took place today, the scenario would be completely different.
We’d be on techno overload. The flat panel display with high def would be on in the living room and we might even all be there together as a family, but that wouldn’t be enough. Our laptops would also be humming away and we’d be updating our facebooks, and tweeting and making cell phone calls and uploading photos and videos. We’d be documenting our own experience of the event while any one of a handful of generic broadcasters droned away in the background. Even the news reporters themselves might be tweeting and checking incoming email while the cameras roll! And that would be perfectly acceptable!
It’s no wonder 1 in 20 children in the Unites States are being diagnosed with ADHD.
I think ADHD is caused by ADND – Attention Deficit News Disorder.
Over the past forty years, news coverage has evolved (or devolved) depending on one’s perspective, to the point of unrecognizability from the stark days of Conkrite. We demand more stimulation, but assimilate far less information. We are overly accustomed to swooshing flashes of color and multiple split screens with spinning inserts. Neverending, yet repetitive, news tickers crawl across both the top and bottom of the TV. Station identifiers, accompanied by zooming images and sounds, splash around like miniature explosions. Digital clocks updated from every time zone, every second, remind us unfailingly just how late we are. Ads about upcoming shows featuring miniature holograms of stars interacting with each other play on the bottom right hand corner of the screen, startling us out of our complacency. Full size drag and drop displays are manipulated by the anchors as they walk around the set at random times during the show. With 24/7 news we get it all day and night, but are we even paying attention?
What do you think? I do find that at a certain point in the day — most likely evenings — I do have to tune out the news to read a book or watch something that does not require any thought like a reality show. Staying engaged in an intense news event is tiring.
But I disagree with Ingalls that Americans today are less informed or less engaged than previous generations. I find the opposite is true thanks to the progression of media. Now concerned citizens can sign online petitions, donate money to various causes and even coordinate in-person meetings to make change — not just watch as passive viewers.