Pit vs Mojo (extended Cronkite Mix)

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…

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5 thoughts on “Pit vs Mojo (extended Cronkite Mix)

  1. I guess the question in Cody’s head is probably less about was Cronkite perfect and more about how does the current crop of infotainers stack up next to him.
    And as bad as Couric is, she’s hardly alone in being a useless waste of skin on the press front….

  2. Monolith Vs Team
    The big question of the early 21st century is how those who control mass media will try to control the internet. especially with regard to information/cultural control.
    In the mass media what seems to have replaced the monolith is something like a team approach.. a small constellation of ideologically overlapping names who each qualify as famous but not universal.. who each bring a ovelapping segments of a particular constituency to the table ..and make a show of playing off one another to increase their total share and buzz. naturally I’m referring to the right wing media machine. if there *is* a left its too chaotic and devoid of will/purpose to be worth mentioning. (excepting such notables as Air America and the Daily show+ spin offs.)
    The control strategy will probably take two forms… one is control of the pipes… with various schemes for making content providers pay not just thier ISP/Host, but for overall bandwidth delivery over the networks to the consumers on a differential sort of scale that reminds me of the freight rate schedules that made the word “Railroaded” into the epithet that it once was.
    The other one will probably be the same psuedo-distributed approach.. with favored treatment or at least capitol backing for the team of folks who carry the spear for the money guys… and this way.. they can give thier ever more deluded audience the illusion of diversity. after all if you listen to Limbaugh and watch Scarborough and Hanity, thats getting your informatin from multiple sources right?
    The trouble with monoliths is that being individuals they occasionally showed a conscience , or at least an inclination toward one, and felt they had enough capital that they could say something obvious and true and get away with it… Like Cronkites famous Khe San “lets get the hell out of this war” flavored broadcast.

  3. not so much filters as funnels.
    I think what will be sought is not a filter but a funnel.. the best channel to pour the desired news to the consumer. benignly this would be done by anticipating interest. less benignly by choosing spin. an example of this is the ‘latest headlines’ button on Mozzilla… when i get lazy I just hit that.. or perhaps the Yahoo News that pops up whenever I check my mail. again.. not filtering what I search, funneling particular stories to where I cant help but see them.

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