Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
Recently, FOX News commentators echoed one another as they shared their perception that the impeachment hearings of President Donald Trump are hopelessly boring. They said there was no sex or violence to keep us watching. Setting politics aside, are they correct? Do modern adults need sex and violence in their information before they can pay attention? Do adult issues such as judicial hearings or straight news need to be exciting to be watchable?
We already know news corporations have transformed news that was once delivered by a serious gentleman such as Walter Cronkite sitting still, telling what happened as plainly and fairly as possible. Modern news delivery (as well as what we judge to be newsworthy) can be remodeled into fast, colorful units, often tainted by the politics or whims of the powerful. In many cases, profits are more important than integrity. Tragically, viewers can’t always tell the difference, so they aren’t sure why they’re supposed to want good journalism. It’s not as fun or easy to hear. In contrast, Walter Cronkite was so beloved by Americans as someone they could trust to tell the unvarnished truth that they urged him to run for president. He declined. He was proud to be a journalist—no matter how boring he might appear to be. He was the opposite of anchors who yearn to be celebrities.
The take-away observation from the evolution of news anchors is sobering. Do we want all the people we see frequently to be exciting in one way or another? Do we want to be entertained and awed by our leaders, for example? Is there a reason why entertainers keep being elected to public office? Are our values truly eroding? What is it, if we’re honest, that we look for in our candidates? They said Nixon lost to Kennedy because he sweated too much and looked like a bad guy on TV. During presidential debates, are we considering the policies or checking out the swag of the speakers? Do we stay focused?
Research has determined that attention span is dictated by the task at hand. If you need to drive for six hours, for example, you do your best to pay attention to your job for the entire six hours. If you don’t, adults know you’re increasing the possibility you’ll die. In other words, if you actually believed you were listening for policies or testimonies that were going to change your life in court proceedings or doctors’ offices or investigative hearings, you’d be motivated to pay attention better and longer. You have to care.
I tend to believe attention span is also connected to both intellectual and emotional maturity. You don’t need to have a fancy degree to be able to listen and apply common sense. You need to realize you’re an adult and the world isn’t there to entertain you. You need to realize you have skin in the game. The world is a web of interconnections. Sometimes I don’t want to hear another negative word. I take a break. But I stay tuned generally. I know I have responsibilities. As much as I wish I could jet away to a beach where everyone is friendly, the food and drink are delicious, and there is no conflict, I know I’m dreaming. There is no place that never sees trouble. The way in which we deal with trouble colors our lives and develops our character. We need to pay attention like grown-ups. Darn.
Your post has me thinking. A couple of years ago I unplugged and have only recently gotten back to the ‘news’. Although I’m more discerning, I do find myself bored and frustrated by repetition and commentary swollen with hype. My first big-person job was as a reporter so I know a little bit about integrity in journalism. Regardless, in the end, I guess it comes back to us. Maybe we don’t need to know as much as we think we do – especially when many messages are intentionally written to divide and conquer. Another brilliant piece, SH. xxx
I agree. The endless repetition tells us we’re not expected to pay attention. We can eat or read emails or whatever while we “watch.” And yes, I also agree that forcing our news to fit a time slot sucks in useless information fillers that distract us from the events we need to consider.