Thriving in a Media Maelstrom
Saturday, November 4, 2017
There's both truth and overstatement in Marshall McLuhan's famous "the medium is the message." Clearly, the medium influences the message; witness Twitter, particularly in the hands of our 45th president. But his thesis—that the way content is delivered has a greater impact on society than the ideas evoked by the content—ha always troubled me.
Maybe the medium is not the message. Isn’t the message the message? And the medium the medium? This may be stating the obvious, but the medium remains a tool to serve the message and when the opposite happens, as it so often does these days, we’re in trouble.
In the age of clickbait and selfies and ever-spawning new forms of social media, the medium in some hands distorts truth. Witness fake news. We live at a time when the digital noise deafens real ideas and the best entertainments, when narcissism is often more celebrated than connection and honest-to-goodness storytelling.
While there’s more noise than ever, there is also more to celebrate. The long-predicted deaths of newspapering, journalism, and extended narrative in the form of memorable novels and nonfiction books has not come to pass. Yes, traditional media has taken hits, but a new generation has managed to survive by making old forms anew, by creating new ones, and by using digital platforms to connect people around the world.
For those of us working in a media-related field, the challenges and opportunities abound. Most people consume more media than ever before—whether for work, entertainment, or the drug-like attraction of distraction—but making good choices and using diminishing time wisely has never been more difficult.
Typical consumers and readers will uncover more helpful information—and misinformation—than ever before. It’s all pretty darn confusing. Bounce around the internet for long enough and you’ll find seemingly valid but completely opposite points of view on almost any issue.
If you’re looking for reasons to drink more red wine, you’ll find them. Seeking support for the idea that exercise is bad for you? Simply search the latest news.
I’m launching this blog—and, soon, a podcast also called The Media Narrative—not because I feel that I have all the answers, but because I want to share my media discoveries and confusions and lessons I’ve learned from the masters of various platforms.
And so, today, I’m joining the conversation. Another voice to weigh against all the others. The subject of media is complicated but I will try to keep my message simple. How do we work with media, how do the highest quality media products succeed, and how do we not only cope but prosper in an environment that can poison so easily?
I hope you’ll join in the conversation, too.