I found myself turning the evening news off fairly quickly again tonight. The programme opened with an item about a government decision to investigate police wiretapping used as evidence in the investigation of a sexual harassment scandal involving a politician, several years ago. The TV news brings us stuff like that every evening, and I’m tired of it. The real news goes unreported, while this crap is placed in the spotlight. As if it weren’t bad enough that the politicians are doing a poor job of running the country, they also distract everyone else from crucial and pressing issues by their follies and crimes.
When people rely on TV news, they surrender to the editorial decisions of the TV news staffs. This is not true of newspapers, since readers simply choose the stories that appeal to them. And it is even less true of web media, where it is easier still to hone in on the topics that interest us.
Web media is still developing. Right now the situation is one of utter chaos. Traditional newspapers are going under since web advertizing revenues are not as lucrative as from print media. People look elsewhere, to sites like Craig’s List, for personal advertising and this robs the newspapers of one of their main sources of income.
Readers of web media are also widely different in their sophistication and preferences. Some are regular readers of news feeds, whereas others have never heard of them. Some prefer to read stories, others listen to podcasts, and others watch video clips. Some get their news emailed to them, some use services like Digg, Twine, or Google News. And the technology is changing all the time.
I’m personally an avid reader of news feeds, but have to admit that it isn’t easy to give myself a "balanced diet". In my case, I find it easier to read the tech feeds like ReadWriteWeb and Slashdot, than to follow stories that are more important and relevant to my world. The reason is partly technical: the tech sites generally include whole stories in their news feeds, whereas newspaper sites are more stingy. They usually provide only a headline and a teaser, and hope that will be enough to get you to click through to their site for the rest.
Probably, as the technology develops, my habits will change accordingly. I bet I will find myself watching more video, and using various aggregators to pull in the items that most interest me.
But I have to admit that till today there is nothing as easy as watching half an hour of TV news. It’s so easy that after about ten minutes I’m gone - one way or another. Either way, I miss the weather.