Extra! Extra! Don’t Bother Reading All About It…It Doesn’t Exist!

Name and Place for November 4 (’14)

Neil Postman puts it pretty plainly and provocatively, doesn’t he?

To give still another example, one of more complexity: the information, the content, or, if you will, the ‘stuff’ that makes up what is called ‘the news of the day’ did not exist—could not exist—in a world that lacked the media to give it expression.  I do not mean that things like fires, wars, murders and love affairs did not, ever and always, happen in places all over the world.  I mean that lacking aBrain technology to advertise them, people could not attend to them, could not include them in their daily business.  Such information simply could not exist as part of the content of culture.  This idea—that there is a content called ‘the news of the day’—was entirely created by the telegraph (and since amplified by newer media), which made it possible to move decontextualized information over vast spaces at incredible speed.  The news of the day is a figment of our technological imagination.  It is, quite precisely, a media event.  We attend to fragments of events from all over the world because we have multiple media whose forms are well suited to fragmented conversation.  Cultures without speed-of-light media—let us say, cultures in which smoke signals are the most efficient space-conquering tool available—do not have news of the day.  Without a medium to create its form, the news of the day does not exist (Amusing Ourselves to Death, 7-8).

Tom Brokaw, you dog, you.  You faked us out!

The real question is, Why does this “News of the Day” even matter to us at all? Why do we attach so much importance to it?

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