Monday, March 16, 2009

Being a Dittohead

In an article in the Washington Post conservative columnist, Kathleen Parker, questions whether Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads have been the cause of the decline in newspapers. This seems like a huge stretch, eh?

Parker questions Limbaugh's constant attacks on the media which is then propagated by his listeners and repeated again and again, with bringing down newspaper. She posits that this is done essentially by one prominent voice being repeated endlessly by dittoheads. Does this give one man too much power and does this power in the mouths of dittoheads actually bare out in the market? I doubt it. Newspapers may be in trouble for their own lack of innovation and narrowness.

Parker credits the freedom of the press with the freedom of an open society, but yet bashes Limbaugh and his dittoheads for their words. Strange, eh? Now, I am not a fan of Limbaugh by any stretch of the imagination. But I do wonder about the efficacy of the argument presented. Parker purports that "the chorus of media bashing from certain quarters has succeeded in convincing many Americans that they don't need newspapers." This she believes would affect local news.

Parker gives a statistic from The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press where "fewer than half of Americans -- 43 percent -- say that losing their local newspaper would hurt civic life in their community 'a lot.' Only 33 percent say they would miss the local paper if it were no longer available."

Personally, I have not watched local news in years and I rarely read local papers. The view is often eschewed and most local news is terribly bad news, even worse than national news. I sincerely doubt that Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads are the cause of the decline in newspapers. It's probably largely due to the newspapers themselves, not to mention the many various open media sources on the Internet.

What do you think?


William Yatscoff said...

The newspaper began dying with open media. Why watch or read something about the news when I can offer my opinion, ask for more information, or contribute facts? It just makes sense that I would want a real response and the ability to interact and learn more about a topic I am interested in. If I'm not, I'll probably treat that article like a newspaper or newscast, I'll just move on.

It's almost sad Parker's editor let this get published. It seems she wants sympathy readership. Blame them, feel sorry for me, read me.

The problem with newspaper draws back to mass customization we realize today. Why would we read articles we have no interest in, or watch something we have no interest in? It's like subjecting yourself to bad news, commercials, and bad programs.

I avoid both. It's funny, I barely read anymore, I just scan documents. I scan them for relevant information. If I find something relevant I may slow down read the paragraph. If it's really good I'll go to the beginning and give it the respect it earned. I believe a lot of my generation are beginning to read this way. Maybe that's why newspapers don't work, we can scan it so quick there's not enough relevant in our lives to make it worth our time, except the comics.

wmmbb said...

I see what you are saying William, but I think we still need journalist, which is not guaranteed, but which newspapers made possible.

The more that newspapers and their house journalists embrace the new internet technology as a content platform, the more supported they will be by those people who write and read blogs, for example, who are their natural audience, not just their sternest critics.

Still even if I think their news is 24 hours old and their commentators predictable and uninformative, I still like the puzzles and the cartoons.

(By the way, Judith, following your goading I posted a likeness, although not a patch on your pleasant, smiling self. Chick it out in about - if you must.)

wmmbb said...

oops I meant "check".

judith ellis said...

William - Thank you for your very thoughtful words. It is also good to hear the perspective of young people just graduating college. I do believe that the media play a vital role in the way that Ms. Parker purported. The free press is aligned with a free society. Where the State owns the media, freedom is often inhibited.

Our problem has been the relevancy of the media and ego-driven columinists and pundits who speak with the voice of God, where a retraction has become all but non-existence. The media has become more than not a kind of sensational reality show. Sensationalism has always been a part of the media, but later generations may have taken it to another level altogether.

judith ellis said...

wmmbb - You make a great point about blogs and the likes whose readers only often tune in for affirmation as opposed to variation or investigation. The point is well received.

judith ellis said...

Hey, wmmbb! Yeah, I must! But I couldn't find it! You have done a good job at hiding it. I thought that I might readily see your likeness, but have clicked on a few posts and I can't find it! What up with that? :-)

Khaled KEM said...

Hi Judith,

It is obvious that the electronic media will take over the written one sooner or later. I like to read a newspaper but the problem now is the lack of interaction and communication between the journalist and the reader, which is well provided by the electronic media. I guess the newspaper has to challenge themselves and get out of the classic box of newspapers and magazines.
Blogging is becoming a solid part of open media but it still more about personnel expression than presenting facts. I guess that this would change as well over time.

judith ellis said...

Good point, Khaled, with regards to personal expression. But when has news become this? While personal expression always comes through, I have always thought of the news to be about presenting facts and allowing the readers to then have personal opinions.

Perhaps we have become to personal in the traditional media and maybe we should be leery about open sources. Maybe there is a need for both, open sources and the traditional media. But finding a way to do so for the latter is becoming very challenging. Newspaper stocks have been sliding for some time now.

I would hate to depend on opinions and not facts no matter who's writing or the medium through which they are expressed.

wmmbb said...


There are two page indicators at the top of the screen: choose the "about" button - and guess who!

judith ellis said...

Cool! Will do!