Thrill me - don't inform me

Professionals of every stripe believe in what they're doing. They dismiss non-believers who question their value, find their service useless or find fault with its approach. Journalists believe their professional practices are essential to the functioning of democratic elections and government with the consent of the governed. Without journalists working hard at their role in democratic societies, corruption, scams, rip-offs and deceits would abound. Without investigative reporting and fact checking, the gullible public could be told anything by vested interests and get taken as truth. Without the commitment to follow unfolding stories for weeks or months, citizens would fail to recognize character flaws and patterns of misconduct in the leaders and agencies they rely upon.

Non-believers view all these claims made by journalists with skepticism or cynicism. Non-believers are coming from a different place, looking through different lenses and framing the value propositions from contexts that are not served by the "contributions to society". The professionals appear unresponsive, insensitive, self-absorbed and out of touch. The same can be said for many professionals in academia and medicine.

Until recently, I've been assuming the non-believers are on to something better, in tune with the future and well-prepared for forthcoming challenges. While there are many signs of declining print literacy, I suspect it's being replaced by advances in visual, acoustic and cultural literacies. While attention spans have shortened and abilities to focus deteriorated, there are indications of greater fluidity, resourcefulness and spontaneity in minds inundated by online and media experiences.

Three of the books I'm currently reading are challenging these optimistic preconceptions of mine. I'll say more about these books in future posts. Today let me simply pose the contradiction to my assumptions. I'm getting the dismal picture that the non-believers in professional journalism are:
  • continually opposed to getting bored by abstract information
  • repeatedly losing interest in whatever is a familiar, old "has been"
  • easily bored, apathetic, and disinterested in anything difficult
  • constantly seeking thrills from something new, edgy or controversial
  • having nothing substantial or comforting to fall back on between thrills
  • living without a sense of meaning, purpose and chosen direction
  • avoiding self awareness or recognition of personal patterns
People in this condition would make great consumers. They would dependent on advertisers and trend setters to dictate their tastes. They would devour the outputs from manufacturers of cultural advances. They would live for the latest thing with no looking back. They'd crave being an "it" boy or girl and follow those who've already made it. They'd go blank when given useful information as if to say: "Thrill me - don't inform me".

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