If you have failed to see the movie “Good Night, and Good Luck”, or are not up on your 1940-1960’s history, journalistic propriety and advent of the media crush, this op ed piece may not ring a strong chord in your heart.
On Oct. 25, 1958, Mr. Murrow gave a wonderful speech at the RTNDA Convention. The speech was the backdrop to the movie noted above. It was during the previous 10-15 years which Mr. Murrow created a following on civic issues/participation and government, thinking and reasoning – it was also the very advent of media manipulation.
While the movie is crafted to explore the politics, marketing machines, McCarthism and incredible truth telling reporting – setting a journalistic high bar, the underlying is that this may have been the last great age of almost grossly unmanipulated media. I personally was not expecting a lesson on TV (I don’t even own one)…..I was expecting a better understanding of great journalism, fortitude and the wisdom of the ages – a reflection on what makes America great.
For the past week, I have been re-reading “The Scientist In The Crib”. I was struck by Mr. Murrow’s words from 1958 and what we now know and understand about how babies – from birth to age three, learn language. It occurred to me in an odd proximal manner that having TV babysit children is probably close to willingly abusing children as it does not provide the necessary environment to stimulate a developing brain. Allowing more than even two hours of TV a day is some sort of human rights abuse as it prevents us from the ability to think.
This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box.
As I watched the movie, I was equally impressed by people who believed the truth would set them free as much as using accurate information to demonstrate credibility in reporting, something much lacking in today’s fractious news of sound bites, spin and self referential acclaim (ex:Rush Limbaugh). I will say NPR and PBS do make the largest strides in excellent media reporting and they are constantly working on/monitoring and censuring their craft.
I began to be bothered by the fact that the ‘greatest generation’ left in its wake a follow up generation which is weaker, more easily manipulated and less responsible/accountable. I am not sure it is entirely the fault of our mass media, always plugged in wonder age as much as the abdication of adults to parenting, instead willfully buying into and supporting the media messages/manipulation which seem to have gotten us to the great meltdown of 2009.
It seems that for innovation to occur in our country, we need more than media pablum. We must go out and learn, explore, seek – something TV does not allow us to do. Media is a filtered, edited, manipulated (for good or bad) medium substantially different from the 3-D real world of touch.
Where are the Edward R. Murrow’s of our day – those people who stimulate us to think, question and wrestle with the important ideas of our day? Did we lose our ability to improve, change, innovate by letting literacy slide or is it all joke – we are easier to control if we are not smart enough to ask? Have we become the ‘not fictional anymore’ characters of Neuromancer by William Gibson?