I get my news from Will McAvoy.
The fact that he’s a fictional news anchor and the events he’s reporting on are two years old is really immaterial.
My good friend, Bob, gave me season one of the HBO series “The Newsroom” on Blu-ray for my birthday this year, and it took me and Carla all of seven minutes to get hooked.
The irony is that my recent engorgement on two full seasons of the show has revealed that many of the actual news stories reported on by the fictional cable news team at “Atlantic Cable News,” were only vague recollections in my mind.
I’m talking major events: Deep Horizon oil rig explosion, killing Osama Bin Laden, shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, two years of a campaign for president. All of these were dramatized in the show, and I was fuzzy on details.
A former newspaper reporter, I have developed news consumption habits that are very New South.
I don’t recognize myself any more.
Who is this person that looks at his smart phone every five seconds for news updates from Twitter or CNN. Why does this person only read newspapers in an email or website? How can he use podcasts played through his car radio from a Bluetooth connection on his smartphone to fill every minute of his daily commute? And why is it that he has trouble remembering news events from two years ago?
I used to read at least three newspapers every day, and by that I mean physically hold pieces of paper. I grew up with the evening news as the background noise to my evenings at home. My parents’ preference was Peter Jennings and his “World News Tonight” on ABC. Various cable news channels were once a staple of my media diet. Radio news, particularly traffic and weather, was always on in my car.
But somehow I’ve managed to tune all that out. News happens, I receive it, and then promptly forget about it. It doesn’t have the same stickiness it once had.
This week Harris Interactive released a new poll revealing that Atlanta was one of the most disinterested cities in the U.S. when it comes to the news. You can get the gist of the report online. Atlanta wasn’t as bad as, say, Los Angeles, but a full 12 percent of respondents said “I am not really interested in the news; there are other ways that I prefer to spend my leisure time.”
And there you have it. My hypothesis is that in the New South, which really has never been covered well by the major news entities based in New York and Washington, people are just too busy to care. And when we do stop to gawk at train-wreck types of stories, we don’t retain the details because we move on in 3.6 seconds.
I also understand that news these days has flavors. Everyone watches the news that puts the most palatable spin on it for them. We are selective, choosing networks and news outlets that tend to reflect our general outlook on the world.
This one-two punch has greatly impacted our level of “informedness.” With so much information at our fingertips, we’re still not really sure what happened in the world last week.
(There’s a war on in Syria, by the way, and the U.S. may soon be dragged into it. It’s worth paying attention.)
So rather than conduct a current events quiz like we all used to take in social studies in school, I’d like to conduct a poll of my own: Do you consume news? In what format (online, TV, radio, print, other)? Do you view yourself as a news junkie? If not, why not?
While I wait for the New South polling data to roll in, I think I’ll re-watch some episodes of “The Newsroom” and try to figure out why I trust fictional reporters more than the real ones.
Thank you for making New South Essays a part of your weekly… OK, occasional… media consumption. We’ll try to do a better job of keeping your informed. Just like the Atlanta Journal used to purport, “Covering Dixie Like the Dew,” New South Essays is your trusted news source for the new millennium. Now, leave a comment!