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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Is Walter Cronkite's Ghost Living in Greeley Colorado?

Frank Rich hits it out of the ballpark, again. While nurturing our memories of Uncle Walter he slowly, and diligently, brings up the curtain and exposes the media elite as one of the "good old boys".

Journalistic integrity and the media industry has long been an interest of mine. The power of the media is absolute in a society where information has become competitive. So many untrained cooks in the kitchen giving out half-baked information makes the gourmand chef all that more powerful. Of course the key is finding the Gourmand information source.

Access to information (including education) is a public good in my noneconomist viewpoint and the free market is known to experience inefficiencies when access to information is limited or controlled--asymmetrical information. Essentially, minus the geeky economic stuff, creating scarcity in any market creates market power and concentration (read: monopolies). The more control any entity has over sources of information, with the intent to limit that information or create scarcity, the more attractive that entity becomes to other powerful influences trying to corrupt (or control) the spread of information. When authority figures wade into the picture it becomes a raw tit-for-tat power exchange. "You allow me to control you and I'll allow you to continue to have your power and make a profit."

Thus, again in my view, the power of the media in few corporate hands is absolutely corrupt. The small guys do not have the capital to grow and cannot get the capital to enter the game (big assets are needed) as long as those who hold the scarce information will not share it with the small guy. Instead those holders of the information give it out in watered down segments as performance rewards for the big guns--in return for brokering the survival of their financial and power kingdoms. Who said the feudal system was dead?

Hence one of my concerns I have about settling in Greeley. Centralized control of information distribution and special interest control in local government. However I admit to little understanding of the people history behind the situation--the driving factors. I have had people tell me it is all about the good old white boys and land power brokers out of the sixties. Then another has mentioned missed sustainable economic opportunities which have pulled skilled workers into other local cities and left Greeley essentially a bedroom community. Political interests aren't at home--they are being directed to other growth oriented areas with more long term potential for a high quality of life. But as I sort through these ideas I still come back to the all-mighty power of the voter. Who is voting in this town and what future are they voting for?

I am getting a sense that most productive young families are not thinking about hanging around. Their future is somewhere else. This is a temporary stop. Which, of course, doesn't bode well for Greeley twenty years from now. It is kind of like how the poor always vote middle class because they vote what they believe their future will be rather than voting the realities of their interests now.

My big question though remains "Why isn't the local media talking about this stuff?" I see lots of fluff. Lots of reports on crime to keep people feeling like those they elect are keeping them safe--regardless of real accountability. Frank Rich's column gives some insight into the killing of the kind of debate every community needs and the type of job integrity it takes to overcome the killing field power brokers. In my view, until guts are rewarded more than a fat wallet again, integrity will continue to take a seat on the back shelf. How many parents ask of their children's date "Are you a good and honest person" before "What do you do for a living and how will it benefit me and mine comes out of their mouth"?

"And that's the way it is..."

Personal Note to fellow geeks* What I don't fully understand is communications theory, or maybe math theory, about how the interactions between news source A with infinite other variables--consumers plays out. The Internet is fascinating in its capacity for changing the oligopoly power broking in the news media industry. Instead of being point A, or B, or C, interacting with thousand of variables now there is peer to peer exchanges. There are thousands of variables interacting with thousands of variables. So if there is another geek out there who thinks of systems in terms of math equations or diagrams--please phone home. Or email at least. I'd love to know more about it.

Op-Ed Columnist - And That’s Not the Way It Is
What matters about Cronkite is that he knew when to stop being reassuring Uncle Walter and to challenge those who betrayed his audience’s trust. He had the guts to confront not only those in power but his own bosses. Given the American press’s catastrophe of our own day — its failure to unmask and often even to question the White House propaganda campaign that plunged us into Iraq — these attributes are as timely as ever.

That’s why the past week’s debate about whether there could ever again be a father-figure anchor with Cronkite’s everyman looks and sonorous delivery is an escapist parlor game. What matters is content, not style. The real question is this: How many of those with similarly exalted perches in the news media today — and those perches, however diminished, still do exist in the multichannel digital age — will speak truth to power when the country is on the line? This journalistic responsibility cannot be outsourced to Comedy Central and Jon Stewart.

Comments :

4 comments to “Is Walter Cronkite's Ghost Living in Greeley Colorado?”

mowdy5gs said...

I am aware of the feeling that I often post however I choose to croon to you this piece of thought. Thick and measured from a bowl that brings fourth the glutinist way of teluride and substance. In this mixture that bakes at half time I sprinkle the time it takes to adheare to a componet that breed's within its majesty. So with this I have pondered those and the thoughts they have about illegal immigration and say unto you. Why did our Government not unilaterally take over the threat of the immence Mexican threat? If illeagal immirgatnts are the imminant threat that is the only cause for America's down fall and disaster then why did we go all the way to Afghanistan and Iraq but refused to do little more then quiver at our neighbor's plight? If those who argue for round ups and mass deportaions believe that Wall Street, corupted officials, servants of the people, as well as those who sit about without cause but for themselves then I ask why? Are we to hearold to the world for peace and unification in oil rich country's alone? Or will we look to the neighbor of the rich and power ful kingpins and flip a finger? The oil Cartels are not the only Cartels that exist. The point then becomes in a limitless world and Einsteins thepry of relativity why do simple minded people believe there are only two possability's? A right and left? That is simply understating the obvious to those whos minds cannot comprehend the gravity of limitless equation.

Cassie said...

There have been some charts exploring this flow of information now that we live in the world of social networks. Word-of-mouth recommendations and information sharing has become virtual. You can check out one of the graphs below, or just search and find images of social networks (eg: Facebook).

Jane Paudaux from Greeley, Colorado said...

Hello Cassie and thank you for the excellent link! That's exactly what I was thinking about. Once, ten years ago, I sat in on a lecture in the multi-cultural studies program that lingers forever in the back of mind. The instructor (sorry I don't remember her name) talked about how our human communications grid expanded through the history of human civilization. She talked about points like the domestication of horses (transportation), the Guttenburg (sp?) Press; the Catholic Church, the Renaissance, the Telegraph, the Camera, the Industrial Revolution, Radio, Television, various Wars, etc. But she finished up with a projection on how the technology revolution would reverse the outward trends and isolate people again. Now the social networks, following the idea of Peer to Peer communication, is popping up and I think, while I love the learning I took from the lecture overall, her idea of isolation isn't panning out. In economics and other areas of business studies like marketing it is very useful to understand these connective channels on a meta-cognitive basis. Most people get it intuitively. If you piss a customer off they are going to tell more people about a bad experience than a good one. Seventy bad to twelve good I've read. So I suspect there must be an algorithm that's show the grid for a single print or video news organizational source to the public (under certain cultures) compared to how the Internet is spreading news. I suspect the latter would be something like your link in email. The question of course would be the quality of news. Thank you! You have made the little hamster that turns the wheel in my brain start running this morning.

Jane Paudaux from Greeley, Colorado said...

Those are a lot of deep questions Mowdy. On the concept of taking over Mexico I look at it from a corporate management point of view. The expenses of management outweigh the good of direct control. In short Mexico doesn't have enough resources to make it worth the effort--since they are a friendly country and we collaborate and consume the existing resources already through trade. We'd simply be taking on their management headaches. Bad idea. And that is before you get to the whole concept of the fact they are a sovereign nation with their own national pride and identity plus cultural traditions that go back longer than the United States. By the way one of those reports, although I think it was from 2000, stated only 1/3 of illegal immigrants come from Mexico. As for the right and left thinkers--I reason it is an efficiency. Cutting out the middle ground and all conceptual possibilities in between is much less an energy drain on the brain and takes less investment in time to research all the complex nuances. We all have different processors in our heads and use them to different advantages and disadvantages. Just my thoughts on it all. I could (oh the horror) be wrong.

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