In an article entitled Online User-Driven News Gives Mainstream Media A Run the writer refers to Internet news-based articles as being “more diverse, yet also more fragmented and transitory than that of the mainstream news media.”
The question before the reader is whether or not this is good or bad, and the last argument in the report claims that it accelerates the dumbing-down of news. I liked the article’s last quote in particular: “The people formerly known as the audience may turn out to be the people formerly known as informed.”
I think the phenomenon of dumbing down actually has more to do with the availability of entertainment alternatives than with traditional media versus Internet. Not so long ago the news was the only thing on at 6. If you didn’t like watching the news then one of the few alternatives you had was reading about it. News had a virtual monopoly in the early evening.
Then came cable, channel dilution and a slip in the ratings. With greater entertainment choice for every pair of eyeballs, newspapers and other news media began to lose popularity as well; and the slide into obscurity really accelerated when the Internet opened up myriad ways to capture one’s attention.
Today, the ratio of traditional news sources to other information sources is probably the lowest it’s ever been, and that is bound to continue. Traditional sources will fight back by becoming more like the titillating media sites that drew their audience away in the first place. The ever-growing Internet, with millions of choices, will only accelerate the trend.
So, say goodbye to the traditional news media – they are circling the drain. In particular, say goodbye to in-depth reporting and hello the 30-second rundown. Dumbing-down also means that the competition for the attention-grabbing sound bite will increase dramatically.
And since it grabs your attention, I’ll argue that cursing on the news will soon be everywhere and commonplace.