Wick Communications

Newspapers and shared experience

In Media on 21 Jun 2013 at 7:24 am

Nicco Mele is a proponent of — or at least an announcer of — the coming of small. He has written a book about how the Internet has democratized things and ended the need for institutions and gatekeepers of all kinds. No need to shop at Macy’s when you can get a T-shirt on the Web that no one else in your neighborhood will rock. Forget the music sold by the record labels. The guy down the street is streaming his online. And so on.

Only Mele admits that the pressure on “big journalism” — principally the big metro dailies — makes him nervous. And it should make you nervous too.

From his excellent piece on the Nieman Lab’s site:

The front page of a newspaper was a judgment about what was important
to the public, what we should think about, what we should discuss. But
now, the unbundling of content has led to the unbundling of audience.
The “even bigger” digital platforms exacerbate the problem through
personalization, ensuring that my Google search turns up different
results from my wife’s. There is no shared public experience.

I say that shared experience is the glue that binds society. What is lost when we no longer relate to the same television shows and pop tunes? Do we lose the power to agree on mores and societal good when we no longer agree on the headlines before us? Do these agreed-upon standards form the basis for empathy? And who is going to hold the powerful accountable if there is no powerful countervailing force?

I think this is the fundamental problem of the digital era. We’re all plugged into our own iPads and Instagram feeds. But what of the problems that don’t start with “I?”

I think Mele’s piece is something every one of us should read.


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