Further discussion of Tony Blair’s media speech:
But for the media ponderers there’s a more troubling issue than the restoration of trust. It’s the possibility that too many people now simply don’t much care about the major media anymore. Normally the great media combines would overcome periods of lassitude by forming up focus groups to tell them what to do next. Hah! They want “Survivor”! Alas, living as we do now in a world of seemingly infinite choice, it is possible not to care for a seeming infinity of reasons, which is why the established media are having such a hard time knowing what to do.
Mr. Paxman [of the BBC] identified one reason not to care: “In the last quarter century we’ve gone from three channels to hundreds. . . . The truth is this: the more television there is, the less any of it matters.” Once there was a time when TV announcers used to say, “Stay with us.” Now no one stays. They go surfing, endlessly seeking a five-minute wave of TV that will take them just a little higher than the five minutes they just watched.
More difficult are the I-don’t-care revolutionaries, who argue that digitization has reversed the media world’s authority and power. The old aristocracy of programmers and editors has been overthrown by average people who now blog new political priorities, download media and form themselves into clickable communities. The Snowman wins. Get over it.
One part of me likes this scenario. Some say we’re living out Marshall McLuhan’s long-ago forecasts, such as, “The circuited city of the future . . . will be an information megalopolis.” Could be. If it is so that these new technologies are redistributing power into millions of liberated hands accessing “what I want, when I want it,” then we are also cruising toward what another seer predicted in three words: “Free to choose.” That seer, of course, was Milton Friedman.
That’s a good point. I don’t think we’re even talking about the same media anymore. In fact, the term “news media” is no longer relevant, because that term implies cohesiveness. It isn’t.
Today’s news consumers are indeed “free to choose.”