The top story at Mojo City News right now is “Our Press of the 21st Century. It’s Failing Us. And We’ve Failed It.” Start there. In essence, Cody Barstow wonders where the new Cronkites are going to come from.
Where is that Cronkite-person these days?
I hate to say it, but I’m thinking the postmodern world has infused itself into ours. We have no Cronkite. No person of authority.
Right or wrong. We have no sense of direction. And yet, as lost as I feel, I fear even more, the Cronkite.
To which I replied, via our little e-mail list:
Cronkite was an artifact of the Modern, a monolithic voice of truth and authority speaking to a culture that had, or was presumed to have, a center.
The Internet arose in the late stages of the Postmodern, and early blogging is an artifact of the great deconstruction, where the center is deemed evil and metanarratives must be destroyed.
We are now in the early days of the Age of Distributed Culture, the Age of the Network. The dominant structure of this age will be distributed network, and there will be no more Cronkites. Instead, there will be a host of mini-Cronkites. However, we have not yet evolved suitable certification and validation mechanisms, which means it’s very hard to sift signal from noise (especially if you aren’t very smart, and if you are very smart, you probably subject yourself to incredibly amounts of data in the search for signal; therefore, signalquest is very inefficient).
We cannot safely assume that what we experience as the tornado passes overhead is representative of the longer-term picture.
And then he said:
Okay. You touch on a couple really important issues. And I’m not so much countering what you say, as adding to it, I think.
First, Cronkite earned his position as the modernist monolith, and he was influential. Regardless of the fact that he was a modernist icon, people acted as if he were the truth-sayer. This goes back to Walter Lippmann’s 1922 Public Opinion, which noted that we do not experience things ourselves, as much as we take in the reports of the thing/event. We will give credence to the reporter we deem truthful according to our perspectives, and indeed will build our words and actions around those reports.
The “reporters” may be wrong. But the point is, we do act on their reports. Merely because “Cronkiteism” has now been confered upon a number of people in this pomo world, we cannot ignore the fact that people build their thoughts and actions around the reports of the world they gather. In fact, with more people now providing the reports, we may find one of them extremely to our liking (while we may have “just accepted” Cronkite-the-monolith) and are more than willing to act on that particular niche-perspective.
Here’s the second point … in a postmodern world of innumerable interpreters of the events around us, how will we find the one editor that we will seek out? I have no answer to this.
I believe this is the central issue our press, and we, as a people face. Because since we create our actions based on the presentations of the world around us, who presents those “facts” has become ever more important.
Well, I don’t have a definitive answer about where those interpreters are going to come from past what I first said in the Fall of 1993 in the Info Highway class at CU: we don’t need more information, we need filters, and industries will be dominated by the people who figure out how to make those filters work.
My assumption is that said certification/validation/authentication/filtering processes will arise out of something like this – smart people thinking hard about problems and working toward solutions.
In any case, make no mistake. Humans are builders and creatures of structure. We will build something on the ground that once was home to the monolith. But if the answers are going to be productive, we have to work hard at it, because last I heard CBS was talking about hiring goddamned Katie Couric, the dumbest girl in the whole sorority, to sit in Walter’s old chair…