“Real news — the kind you get on, say, Al Jazeera — seems not to interest people very much.” So, asks Jon Carroll, “how do we package the news in the new environment?”
One of the main lines of thought is: People want the same things, they just want them in a new format. All we have to do is crack that code, and voila, we have both real content and big page views. It’s a very intricate kind of puzzle solving. It’s a deep shift in consciousness, perhaps as large as the one surrounding movable type; we have to anticipate that shift, to own it.
Carroll, who has been a San Francisco Chronicle columnist for 32 years, adds:
* People don’t want content anymore. They want diversion, and there’s plenty of that.
* People don’t care what the media say. They care what their friends say; they get what information they get from people just like themselves.
* Objective reporting is now considered impossible, so why bother? And equally: Why bother with complexity?
Carroll closes his column this way: “I friend you on Facebook. I look at pictures of the meal you just ate. I tweet about my toes. And the idiots who produce mountains of prose? Screw ’em.”
I figured he’d be ripped a new one by dozens, if not hundreds, of commenters calling him a dinosaur and a curmudgeon, but I was wrong; only 11 people (at last look) have reacted to his piece. (Maybe because people no longer care what media columnists say?)
I asked Carroll about the comments, and if he’d received emails or heard from colleagues about his piece. He wrote:
I never read the comments – part of a self-protective thing, I guess. My email is a much better indicator, and it’s not anonymous. The email has been largely positive, but I suspect it’s mainly people from my age cohort. And, after reading the col back, I did remind myself that 90 per cent of everything is crap, and it was like that back in the pre-digital days too. But I also like to think that the col was nuanced enough that it didn’t provoke much knee-jerk response, the way an Obamacare one would.
The two colleagues I heard from agreed with me, although of course my view is not at all the view of Chronicle management.