Saturday, December 13, 2008

Words

I just watched "Good Night and Good Luck". It's a movie about Edward R. Murrow, a journalist at CBS in the fifties. The plot deals with the way in which he took on Senator McCarthy about the hearings on communists. That is a subject so far removed from the world I know today that I can barely wrap my head around it.

From what I know about the era, gleaned from conversations with my grandparents, my love for media of all types from back then, and the minuscule offerings of my high school courses, I can only form the barest outline of what life was like then. The political and media landscape and the way in which people related to it is just beyond me.

In a time when the common man was so insulated from the wider world the media had a heavy responsibility. Information flowed through a funnel with a tiny neck and what information eventually reached the public had to be good.

In a time when I could easily fit every episode of "See It Now" on my cell phone with room to spare for some hit songs and pictures of my kids things are different. The sheer volume of information that is available to nearly everyone has caused a severe devaluation of that same information. Real news is placed on the same table as entertainment industry gossip and news outlets must take what in decades past would have been a five minute piece and ramble on endlessly as the twenty-four hour cycles churn on.
"Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar." ---Edward R. Murrow
The thing that really struck me about the way the news was presented by Mr. Murrrow was the absolute precision and elegance with which he spoke. A number of times he said, "...so that we are sure that we say exactly what we intend to say." He did not waste a single syllable. Such a far cry from the endless prattling that can be seen on any news network today. One anchor after another pumping sources for any tiny shred of information or, more likely, speculation on the subject du jure.

In my work I have come to so value a succinct statement that I have spent considerable time training myself to give that sort of statement. As a lover of language I revel in vernacular and slang. I never tire of the peculiarities of casual language. But from my politicians and news people I crave the apparently dead practice of putting forth a well thought out statement.

When access to information has never been so open I cringe at the quality of the content that is put forth. When a person can broadcast to the far corners of the Earth from a computer or even a cell phone, that person should have a deep respect for the value of their words. Should have. My heart breaks when I open a novel by a famous author and find a typo. I cringe and leave the room when I see journalists so misuse language and so misunderstand some of the phrases they use as to send an English teacher into convulsions.

I have this left to say with no desire to detract from the value of a casual statement about a frivolous topic. I beseech those who put pen to paper, or fingers to keys, or lips to microphones to perfect their craft. If you seek to inform those who will pay attention to your media, have the common courtesy to refine your statements and the respect for your audience to speak intelligently.

And to the people who are out there paying attention, I ask you to go the extra mile and confirm what you ingest, seek out the information that completes the picture. I am the person that I am because I paid attention to things that were over my head and chewed them over until they no longer were. I, for one, do not require a dumbed down version of anything.

Good night, and good luck...

Subscribe in a reader Subscribe in a reader

1 comment:

  1. Ummm.. Your blog is FINALLY working again and all of them came through my RSS feeds in blogger at once... Craziness.

    ReplyDelete

Keep it clean...