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New Media vs. Traditional Media — new take on “the medium is the message”

While sitting on the sidelines of today’s Suncoast Tiger Bay Club meeting, listening to local panelists discuss “Traditional Media vs. New Media,” it became crystal clear that Marshall McLuhan’s prophetic phrase, “The medium is the message” first published in 1964 had become a reality far beyond anything McLuhan could have possibly imagined.

The panelists for today’s Suncoast Tiger Bay meeting included Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay Times, Jeff Houck of the TBO.com, Mitch Perry of Creative Loafing, Noah Pransky of WTSP 10 News, John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times and Peter Schorsch of Saint PetersBlog.

Our experienced panelists discussed issue such as predicting whether newspapers will still be politically relevant in ten years, with most of the panel agreeing that yes, though it might look different. Schorsch was a striking voice of dissent on this issues, stating flatly, “absolutely not.” Schorsch pointed out that newspapers are not economically sound and that the on-line publications The Huffington Post and Politico were Pulitzer Prize winners this year.

Largo Mayor Pat Gerard asked the panel a pertinent question in the wake of local newspaper layoffs and marked circulation decline, “Will the decline of local newspapers lead to the decline of keeping an eye on local politicians? […] How do we know who to trust?”

Deggans responds, “Trust yourself.” He continues saying that while “there is downsizing in newsrooms, you have the tools to determine how valid, how real and how important a story is.” Deggans explains that this isn’t determined entirely by the source.

St. Petersburg City Councilmember Karl Nurse posed the question as to whether media is making people more educated or more opinionated. Schorsch stated firmly, “More educated” He said, “There has been a 400 percent increase in talking about politics since 9/11,” where Schorsch credits social media as a significant reason why. Schorsch also contends that through the use of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the volume of national dialogue about all issues has increased. Yet, Pransky was less enthusiastic stating that he believes overall people are more opinionated based on blog postings yet more educated from traditional media.

Willi Rudowski of the Poynter Institute asked, “What is the benefit of speed over accuracy for democracy?” Deggans first spouted off saying, “None.” Then, he follows-up with a more complete answer, “Imapct.” When you are first, he explains, it gets you noticed, and being noticed affects your bottom line, and that’s important if you want to stay in the game.

Yet, I suspect that Deggans meant what he said the first time, “None.”

Romano expanded on this saying that while this is true, he believes that “speed is often destroying good journalism. Good journalism is comprehensive, nuanced and thorough.”

Schrosch had more to add to this, however, and this point was my biggest take-away from this panel discussion where “The medium is the message” became the true topic of conversation. And I’m not saying that because Schorsch pays me, which he does, but because I believe it to be true. I’ve seen it in action.

Schorsch replied to the question of the benefit of speed over accuracy for democracy citing Twitter feeds to help organize protesters in Tunisia and other similar stories to help gather, organize and inform the public via social media tools. “It’s about getting people organized versus the ‘right people’ organized.”

At this point someone interjected, “The news is different from social media.”

But is it?

Schorsch said that the power of new media isn’t just to inform. “You can use it to overthrow a totalitarianism regime. I want to be able to help overthrow a totalitarianism regime.”

And here, the medium surely is the message.

What does that mean? “The medium is the message” refers to the reality that not only does the content the medium carries affect society, but the medium itself plays a significant role in the story and in shaping society.

Media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are as much a part of the story as the stories they tell just as much as the newspaper, television show or cable news station is. Moreover, whether we are discussing traditional media or new media, the storyteller his- or herself also is the message.

Via Daphne Taylor Street. You may reach Daphne at dts.streetmedia@gmail.com.

Published first on Saint PetersBlog: http://saintpetersblog.com/2012/05/at-tiger-bay-panel-traditional-journalists-and-new-media-debate-if-the-medium-is-in-fact-the-message/

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Kafkaesque Symbolism Applied to the 21st Century (quick version)–or are Americans facing servere alientation?

You remember The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka? You know, the salesman who turns into an insect. Just a couple of background points: 1) Gregor was the protagonist’s name–the salesman who turned into an insect; 2) He lived at home with his parents; 3) No one was sympathetic to Gregor’s metamorphosis; 4) Often, the symbolism within this novella is attributed to Marxist “worker alienation” descriptions; 5) Gregor experienced profound alienation from all areas of his life.

Reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Metamorphosis

Okay, I promised to make this short, so here it is: Americans are becoming increasingly alienated by their own design. Often you will hear us whine about failing community and family structures while larger systems are expected to pick up the slack. In other words, instead of parents being responsible for parenting; schools, legislators, law enforcement, courts and social services are expected to fill the gaps. Likewise, government is expected to take over the responsibilities of a compassionate, connected, engaged community. Instead of your best friend or priest holding your hand and listening to you as you suffer through a year of grieving over the death of your 16-year-old son, or your neighbors pooling together to help you and your family as your husband is out of work fighting cancer, we turn to government-administered and/or funded social services.

Hey! It’s great that these systems are here, please don’t misunderstand me. I am a huge advocate for funding social services. They are critical to modern community functioning, and more funding is needed. Yet, why are these services so critical? What went wrong–what broke? While these services are indeed critical, they are a miserable replacement for parenting, familial and societal accountability, genuine friendship, sharing, warmth and love.

What I’m saying is that Gregor’s plight is a perfect description of the alienation within 21st Century culture, taking into account the context described above. I argue that it is even more relevant today than when it was originally penned in 1915. So, if you’ve ever read The Metamorphosis and liked it, or if you have never read it but think you might like to, I’d encourage you to pick it up, and challenge you to think of it in terms of symbolism that would be pertinent to American culture today.

One of the most powerful features of classic literature is not only its timelessness as it relates to telling a story within a historical context, but that themes and symbols can be translated to something relevant in any point in time. While alienation may be a part of the human condition, perhaps it has become even worse than before? Something to think about.

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