Internet/Telecom/Social Media

Media deprivation in the US

We’re in our third week of visiting the grandkids (along with their outstanding parents) in Massachusetts and I’m starting to feel media deprived. I’m a news/information junkie, I cheerfully admit, and every time I’m in the US I start going into withdrawal. If it weren’t for the Internet, lord knows what sort of shape I’d be in. First, there’s television. The only thing we’ve watched has been the World Cup, usually on Univision because the guys on ABC wouldn’t shut up. When the Univision guys wouldn’t shut up, at least they wouldn’t shut up in Spanish, so it was pretty much white noise. And that’s it. We gave up on US television news around 2002, when everyone kept shouting at us “Countdown to Iraq!” with multiple exclamation points, in between all the pharmaceutical ads for something that would make me feel better if I asked my doctor about it. Why were they constantly shouting? Maybe they thought I was deaf, or didn’t understand how important it was to invade Iraq, or something. The one or two times we’ve sampled the news since then, they’re still shouting. And what did Katie Couric do to herself, anyway?

Then there are the newspapers. I do this just to go through the motions, and to remind myself why I gave up buying them in the US a long time ago. We got in on a Friday, so for the next two days I buy The Boston Globe, The New York Times, and the Weekend Financial Times. And really, it takes about fifteen minutes to go through the Globe and Times, no more, and that’s combined, including the time taken for actually turning the pages. Sunday takes longer, because first I have to wade through each paper to get rid of the stuff I don’t or won’t read, which is about one-third of the Times, and most of the Globe. But that’s a pointless exercise anyway, because there’s nothing to read in either one of them. Does everyone out there know that the Globe used to be a good newspaper before it was bought by the Times in the 1990s? So I end up just buying the FT every day, which amazingly I’m able to pick up at the local newspaper store downtown, so at least I can have some idea what’s going on in that world, which is what I’m heading back to when we go back to London. No wonder Americans know nothing.

Well, wait, what about radio? Good old NPR? Well, true, there is always NPR, and they do have CarTalk. But I’m listening to All Things Considered one evening early on, and the jobless numbers had come out that day, so after a brief discussion of the numbers themselves, for further insight they went to…E.J. Dionne, who at least is smart, and David fucking Brooks, who is the opposite of smart. What’s the point? Is this what NPR is reduced to? Thank heaven I’m no longer being asked to support them. I suppose they remain better than the alternatives, but that says nothing, really.

The UK media certainly has its faults. But it continues to have the BBC, The Independent, The Guardian, The Times (which remains a real newspaper in spite of being owned by Rupert Murdoch), and television news that doesn’t insult your intelligence. Most of the time, anyway.

9 replies »

  1. Oh, right, how could I have forgotten about the newspaper that brings us Will, Cohen and Krauthammer? What was I thinking?

  2. Ok, mr big-shot, fancy pants expatriate, listen, we don’t buy the paper, turn on the TV or listen to the radio to get new information. It’s strictly an exercise in having our opinions validated…and perhaps gently molded (I’m looking at you, National Propaganda Radio).

    I like reading my local paper. It makes me feel smart to catch the spelling and grammatical errors…and lately it’s been filled with juicy stuff like John Stamos allegedly offering oral sex to a local resident.

  3. I like reading the local paper here too. It keeps me up to date on what the lunatic planning board is up to, and how the high school hockey team is doing. And it’s not the local paper that has convinced people here that we live in some sort of socialist dictatorship overseas, our heads presumably under some boot, inflicting the NHS on some poor unwilling population.

  4. Well, sort of for Google News. Like Yahoo, it’s basically an aggregator, so it picks up news from a variety of feeds, some of which are quite good–McClatchy in the US, AFP in France, and Reuters and the BBC in England. But it doesn’t do its own reporting. From what I can tell, McClatchy (which used to be Scripps-Howard) does the best reporting in the US. I hit their website regularly. They were the only reliable source for what was going on in Iraq for years. Today’s lead story, for example, is the kind of thing I just don’t see elsewhere:
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2010/07/14/97500/gulf-spill-raises-questions-about.html

  5. Wait, you don’t live in some sort of socialist dictatorship overseas? I’m pretty sure that’s all they’ve got.

  6. It’s been *mumble mumble* years since I’ve read a local paper, watched television news or listened to any form of talk radio. And although I’ve certainly seen clips, true confession time: I’ve never watched a talking head for longer than it takes to flip past to Turner Classic. I just can’t. Life is too short, my tolerance for nonsense is next to nonexistent and I can buy or subscribe online to the papers I do want to read… it takes me a very long time to feel comfortable with a news source, and even then I need to be able to look up references for myself.

    I refuse to take in more mental crap than is absolutely unavoidable; my own brain produces enough as it is.