Friday, April 4, 2014

Up-to-the-Minute

"Today we are continually barraged with the latest news and up-to-the-minute instant coverage of events so that we can practically participate as spectators to holocausts and disasters wherever they occur, as they happen. Not long ago I heard there was even an hourly newspaper for people who needed the absolutely latest details on the timely matters of business and government."

The idea of an hourly newspaper seemed almost comical to me in 1993 when I wrote the above words in a short piece titled, "Up to the Minute." Today, with Twitter, we not only get hourly news, we have moment-by-moment thoughts, observations and impressions from around the world, on every topic imaginable, from disappearing passenger jets to Dubai kidnappings.

Tinseltown gossip rags have been dispensing the latest dirt from magazine racks and grocery store check-out lanes forever, but today bloggers and others are providing competition with instant news of celebrity sightings, happenings and delicious malfeasance. Readers swoop in and learn who did what and with whom. Sizzling sightings of Justin Bieber, the latest celebrity sex tape, a salacious new story about Hannah and Hillary, the stolen and recovered photos of Angelina, or J-Lo, or Hank.... that break-in at Julia Roberts' pad, Brad's latest photo shoot, whatever. If you're into this sort of thing, here's a Forbes article on the current Most Popular Celebrity Gossip Sites.

Then there's the Washington scene. Yes, The Hill has its own network of gossip action. Who betrayed whom, what really happened on the White House lawn last night, what's the current mood on Obamacare and why it matters, etc. Who's moving up? Who's going down? And where's Waldo?

The Washington scene doesn't really need rags like the Enquirer. It has talk radio, Politico, the Drudge Report, CNN, MSNBC and it's own battery of blogs and websites that serve up the manifold perspectives of our immense media industry.

Evidently there is an appetite for all this up-to-the-minute blather or the public wouldn't tune in to it and businesses wouldn't be supporting all that media infrastructure with advertising dollars.

By way of contrast, I often think about C.S. Lewis with regard to these matters. Lewis claimed that he never read the newspapers because the things that really mattered you only learned six months later. Yes, celebrities make headlines, but the really important people and events often do not.

All too often what passes for news is a massive manipulation and the re-shaping of our perceptions of reality.

Summing Up
This is not to say that staying current with what's happening has no value. For example, when there’s a major snowstorm about to land on your doorstep, or a tornado zigging and zagging in your vicinity, finding out about it six months from now is not going to be very helpful. If tickets are about to go on sale for a sure-to-be-sold-out concert, it’s better to find out sooner than later, if you aim to get seats.

So it is that I strive for a balance between timeless and timely blog content here. Announcements about upcoming art openings fall into the category of relevance in the now. My interviews with artists and others here aim for a more timeless aspect. For the most part whatever the topic it's my hope to feed you something to think about, to give you a takeaway.

In either event, thank you for dropping by. Make the most of your weekend. And make a difference wherever you are.

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