There is a common, and important theme developing in many of the essays we read. This theme is given many names such as “overload,” “information pollution” or ” social narcissism,” but at it’s essence it all boils down to the fact that the information age and our ability to interact with it has created a type of noise; static, that causes the intended recipients to bypass or tune out much of today’s news.
And how can you blame us? We are inundated with so much information, much of it irrelevant or too complex or distasteful for us to process, that we bypass it or tune out and get nothing from it. In her article, Overload! Journalism’s Battle for Relevance in an Age of Too Much Information, Bree Nordenson explores the current state of overwhelm and dissatisfaction that consumers feel as a result of news fatigue. Journalists are currently faced with the question of how to stay relevant, and more importantly profitable, in the face of the apathy they themselves have created.
Like many of the articles we read in Annual Editions, there is an ironic lament for information overload while delivering way too much information for the average reader to process in one sitting. I can paraphrase Nordenson’s article easily by simply quoting her verbatim: “To win the war for our attention, news organizations must make themselves indispensable by producing journalism that helps us make sense of the flood of information that inundates us all”. I couldn’t agree more. I think that’s why news magazine programs such as 60 Minutes and CBS Sunday Morning still survive and stay extremely useful and popular despite their long runs. Stories that help us process the news, explain why it’s important and make us feel something for the subject are essential, and will never go away. I’d rather watch three 20-minute segments that engage and interest me, than twenty 3-minute segments that blur past into forgettable oblivion.
In fact, to me that is the most important and missing component – feeling. When I read about a nightclub fire killing over 200 people in Brazil, and the sounds of their cell phones being called by frantic loved ones giving the first responders PTSD, and all I can think is “I wonder if it’ll rain tonight”, there is obviously something wrong. I have been desensitized and I don’t like it. I think the industry that created the problem should also be the ones responsible for fixing it.