Jeff Talbot Digilife

The Responsibility of the ConsumerA-man-stands-in-front-of--008

If the Digital Age typifies nothing else, it’s speed. Hard, fast, freewheeling speed. And like every era prior, the Digital Age is a harbinger of change. Everything that was once concrete and tangible has now become an algorithm left to the whims of our computational overlords. So much so that the digitized era has altered the very language that is uttered, the most obvious of which being the schism between email and snail mail. One is quick, efficient and riddled with errors, while the other is an archaic, lost art. Not much has changed, in fact, the same can be said of slow journalism and fast journalism; essentially the difference lies between hard fought, investigative reporting and convenient, mobile filming. It is feasible then to purport that here in lies the divergence between reasonable and reckless reporting.

Slow journalism is precisely what its namesake suggests, careful, calculated, and diligent investigation. In other words, actual journalism; journalists willing to experience, not merely comment on, an event, those willing to fully immerse in neighborly or otherworldly culture to gain understanding and perspective. Traditional journalists can take weeks or months, even years, to fully disclose a story in all of its intricacies, yet fast journalism is nothing shy of your best friend’s recent upload. Slow journalism, however, dissipates the disconnect and creates a more fully satisfying vicarious living, as bad as that sounds. The news is in place to inform, and the more accurate the information, the better. But that is not to entirely pooh pooh fast journalism, it is not without its merits. After all, there is nothing of its kind, credible or otherwise, which provides such instant accessibility or vast opportunity previously privy to cable news conglomerates. Fast journalism can indeed supply fresh and immediate perspective to a given story, but it, like every other aspect of the Digital Age, comes at a price.

Fast journalism, it is important to bear in mind, is not merely the footnote of the masses. It is the model happily adopted by the news makers: Fox, CNN, NBC, ABC, the list goes on. Companies confined to a business model ruled by two strict concessions, ratings and deadlines. It is not hard to imagine a company pressed for time and eager for results to run a cell phone video as their main story, despite the lack of context or authenticity. Just recently Fox attempted to legitimize a 2010 cell phone video of a European subway full of Muslims chanting “God is great” as a 2015 European migrant issue, with a title of “Terrorist Inbound?” But this, after all, is the Malthusian capitalistic business model on which first world countries operate, in which short term profits trump long term gains and consequences are heedlessly snubbed. Much of the intent of journalism is lost in the realm of digitized reporting. Conjecture, rumor, and shock value often bask in the limelight as logic and credibility remain wallflowers. For instance, a citizen may film a police officer unjustly addressing a situation, but any decent psychologist, and sociologist for that matter, will admit that violence is a process. This is not to vindicate unwarranted police aggression or abuse of power, but merely provide an example for the lack of context. The what is provided, but the why is entirely absent.

What then is the purpose of journalism? While America is a republic, it is important to note that democratic elements are prevalent. One would not have to read about democracy much more than ten minutes to stumble across John Stuart Mill and discover that democracy is dependent upon an “educated and informed citizenry”. Perhaps then, it does not solely lie in the hands of the reporters of the information, but that the burden lies as much and more upon the audience. Slow journalism is eeking its way to a comeback. And if bell bottoms can do it, then I will be damned if good old fashioned reporting does not have the wherewithal. Fast journalism, like its social media constituents, are ingrained in society. The decision now lies with the viewer. What is earnest, responsible reporting and what is reactionary and rash? What is worthwhile and what is not?