In a fantastic article in April’s Atlantic. He deftly synthesizes and articulates all or our fears and then he shows us how to deal:
If we accept that the media will probably become more and more market-minded, and that an imposed conscience in the form of legal requirements or traditional publishing norms will probably have less and less effect, what are the results we most fear? I think there are four:
• that this will become an age of lies, idiocy, and a complete Babel of “truthiness,” in which no trusted arbiter can establish reality or facts;
• that the media will fail to cover too much of what really matters, as they are drawn toward the sparkle of entertainment and away from the depressing realities of the statehouse, the African capital, the urban school system, the corporate office when corners are being cut;
• that the forces already pulverizing American society into component granules will grow all the stronger, as people withdraw into their own separate information spheres;
• and that our very ability to think, concentrate, and decide will deteriorate, as a media system optimized for attracting quick hits turns into a continual-distraction machine for society as a whole, making every individual and collective problem harder to assess and respond to.
Our protection against these trends is partly defensive, or conservative. Economic history is working against “legacy” news organizations like the BBC, The New York Times, NPR, and most magazines you could name. But historical forces don’t play out on a set schedule, and can be delayed for a very long time. Economic history is also working against museums, small private colleges, and the farm-dappled French countryside, but none of them has to disappear next week. Even as it necessarily evolves, our news system will be better the longer it includes institutions whose culture and ambitions reach back to the pre-Gawker era, and it would be harder and costlier to try to re-create them after they have failed than to keep them on life support until their owners find a way to fit their values and standards into the imperatives of the new systems.
But the new culture also creates positive opportunities—as, it’s worth saying again, every previous disruption has.
And isn’t this awesome?:
At an individual level, I think the “distracted Americans” scare will pass. Either people who manage to unplug, focus, and fully direct their attention will have an advantage over those constantly checking Facebook and their smart phone, in which case they’ll earn more money, get into better colleges, start more successful companies, and win more Nobel Prizes. Or they won’t, in which case distraction will be a trait of modern life but not necessarily a defect. At the level of national politics, America is badly distracted, but that problem long predates Facebook and requires more than a media solution.