The stream of national consciousness moves faster now, and is broader, but it seems to run less deep. The old channels cannot contain it and in its search for new ones there seems to be growing havoc and destruction along its banks.
-Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Every morning, as a child, my mother would ask me to go to the end of the driveway and fetch the newspaper. My parents subscribed to the Halifax Chronicle Herald and I enjoyed opening the fresh pages, reading the front headlines, flipping to the funnies, and looking at the photos. My mom would glance at a story or two, mostly to get to the crossword. My dad always read the letters to the editor, claiming it’s the most important section of the paper- which I agree.
Now that I am 21, living on my own, and finally attending a journalism school, I find myself not as excited for news. I don’t receive the morning newspaper, instead I quickly glance over the headlines, skim through the first paragraphs of the stories that interest me, and skip the rest. All of these stories are found on my laptop; CBC news is my homepage whenever I click the internet icon. As an inspiring journalist this scares me. After reading the first two chapters of Robert Pirsig’s book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I don’t feel alone.
Pirsig says that our consciousness moves faster. Because our minds move faster, we are able to absorb information quickly and easily, making internet surfing a breeze. However, by just surfing the web, we are only broadening our minds with information but not running deeper into the issue. As I stated above, I am a sucker when it comes to quick, easy, effective, and flashy marketing for online news- the faster I can read the top stories before I catch my coffee at Tim Horton’s and off to class the better! Or is it better?
The internet has made finding information and news quicker and effortless. You justsimply have to type in the website in the address space, click ‘go’, and POOF, you have every top story worldwide. A person can easily find out what happened in Russia, America, Australia, Africa, anywhere in the world with a quick click of the mouse. Newspapers, television and radio stations, and magazines across the world have their very own website, with easy access to free online content (only a select few use pay walls). They thought by doing so, more viewers would become interested in their content and would then start purchasing the paper copy. Needless to say, viewers adapted to the free, effortless access to news on the internet, rather than rushing to newsstands and purchasing the newspaper.
It has become even easier now, with portable laptops, e-book readers like the Kindle, iPads, and cell phones like the iPhone and Blackberry capable of Wi-Fi services. People can easily share, email, and post thoughts about an article online on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, or post them directly on the story comment board.
However, this method of “communication” is boring, anonymous, and unproductive. Pirsig wrote, “In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more T.V. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.” When you relate this to the world of Web 2.0, you come to realize that our car has become our
computer room. We’ve become used to it, adapted to the technology, assuming that it only gets better. The conversation towards the news has become boring, just like small-talk in a car. We post our thoughts on the forum but many of us don’t even return to the website to see what others have posted. Who has the time to sift through and read hundreds of comment posts? We should continue to engage in discussions at coffee shops after reading the newspaper, or talking to our families at the supper table.
Broader Sense of the News
Due to the vast amount of information online, we do not have the time to sift through every website, every post, every comment, etc. The internet has made us impatient. We want to read the headlines quickly, get the jest of the story after skimming the first few paragraphs, and be on our way. When we skim articles our knowledge of the world is broad but “meaningless”. As journalists, we should always be concerned with the questions: Who, what, when, where, why, and how? It is easy to post who did what, what happened, and when it occurred on a website- but it’s the why and the how that needs the deeper thought. This takes a lot of resources which we have due to the advancement in technology but it also takes time which we assume we have little of. Investigative journalism is in danger because of the internet and reader’s short attention spans and impatience. The internet could be a marvellous place to uncover corruption, greed, scandals, and find solutions but we need to grow patient with it.
Look at John’s stubbornness to not learn how to take care of his motorcycle and to have a mechanic do it for him. He assumes that the mechanic knows better because that is their job; he assumes that he doesn’t have the time to do it by himself and he could use the time he would have used trying to fix his bike on something else; he assumes that the advancement in technology will always be on his side and will save him from any
problem. The mechanic’s wisdom plus the technology equals problem solved. However, when Robert took his bike to the mechanic to be repaired, the mechanics had the resources to do their job but they did a half ass job doing it. It became quantity over quality; money over quality; time over quality. When you put these three factors against the quality of a journalist’s work, their work becomes meaningless and only gives you the broad sense of what is happening in this world.
Back to Paper
I remember the feeling I had the first time I seen my letter to the editor published in the Daily Gleaner. I felt like I had done something of value and made my father proud. However, I think I cheated a little because I emailed the letter instead of postage. Whatever the case, the internet can still be a useful tool to engage people, help people to learn more about the world around us, and to inform people- we just have to be patient, less greedy, and value what we put on it.