Seven Deadly Spins: A 20th-Century Newsperson Misses the 21st-Century Mark

I believe I’m done following David E. Henderson, despite his Emmy as a former CBS newsperson. While the man is clearly bright and obviously thinks deeply about our modern culture, the unrelenting negativity of his blog posts is just no fun. It’s like listening to George Carlin’s last performances, without the mellower humor of his early years for context.

Recently, for his birthday, Henderson posted seven observations about American society. I tried commenting on his blog, with no luck, so I’m posting those thoughts here, instead:

Yes, we live in a time of turmoil. But I believe the Tofflers correctly characterize it as another paradigm shift, like the transition from agriculture to manufacturing. To merely deride this age’s troubles is to miss the matching opportunities.

For example, Henderson’s characterization of social media as a “dull and vast online wasteland” is like calling the Pacific Ocean an unrelenting stretch of salt water. It misses the paradise of Hawaii, the pods of dolphins, the beaches of Southern California, and so much more. Similarly, amid the vapid chatter he points to in Twitter, there are rich communities of people not only sharing a new ambient awareness of one another, but also pointing to ongoing science news, or global politics, or just plain human-interest stories.

I’m 54 years old, and I learn something new every day from someone’s Twitter post. Add in Facebook, e-mail, and personal blogs, and the wasteland of needy people Henderson describes seems to me a 24/7 pool party of creatives, thinkers, and doers. Come on in, David; the water’s fine.

The tools are there for shutting out the noise and focusing on the signal. We just have to learn to use them. And that’s what distinguishes a 20th-century citizen from a 21st-century one.

6 Comments

  1. As a Zen mootist, I certainly appreciate your Buddhist thought. But it’s difficult to argue that modern civilization doesn’t provide more food and a longer lifespan than the Medieval period, for example, and that the Middle Ages themselves weren’t better than living in caves. Taking a long view, the race has made some significant achievements over the centuries.

  2. Not all media is for profit Lester. The BBC and AP quickly come to mind. Newspapers weren’t originally their current incarnation neither, in America they were usually an extension of a political party. Meanwhile, the corporations have been clamping down on people to make day-to-day living a struggle. I wish I shared your view but civilization is cyclical, not a progression. That’s not a negative view, more Buddhist.

  3. Maggi, I love ya. But you sound like a cranky old man. Historically, the media has never been anything but commercial, from the very earliest days of the penny press, and before—whatever journalists might like to claim. And as for “the masses,” most people are simply too busy trying to make a living and brighten their lives with a little fun to seriously do battle against corporate interests. Still, somehow, civilization actually grows more civilized with each passing century. I’m imagining a pretty rosy future for the human race, but the temblors of change are always a little scary to those standing at the epicenter.

  4. Thanks, Emily. I’m glad to hear that it’s not just my comments being ignored on his blog. Seems confirmation enough to go ahead and tune him out as part of the very noise he complains about.

    Back to the online party!

  5. Emily Ward

    Mr. Henderson prefers to make his point by being negative. He also talks about being open and transparent while moderating the valid comments of others. He will only post your comment if it agrees with his point of view or if he can craft a response that supports his side of the discussion. The majority of the comments on his site are from friends and business associates.

  6. I side with him very much Lester. The ratio of signal-to-noise with social media is awful. FaceBook is OK but it comes off like AOL version 2008.

    Everything good in America gets hijacked into making a quick buck (aka, Radio, TV, hobbies, Web 2.0 crap) with the business logic of the Underpants Gnomes.

    The bigger gripe he has I have agreed with for years. America is a nation rich in media, but very poor in democracy and smarts. No one can get a straight answer about healthcare yet I’m sure we’ll know the toxicology report on Corey Haim soon.

    DC continues to just bicker while the country deteriorates. Meanwhile, the two inept parties continue to think America will be #1 by being a nation of shoppers. This is how the Roman Empire fell, Poland before it was devoured by its neighbors and practically every civilization before us.

    I hate to be negative too but I fear things will have to get worse before they improve since the majority of Americans are selfish, short-sighted morons. Case in point. Whenever I go to the grocery store, most people won’t make the effort to put their empty shopping carts in those corrals, even when they’re a mere 10 feet away! They’d rather abandon it out in the lot, taking the risk of scratching/damaging someone else’s vehicle because it’s “work.” If Americans can’t bother to expend the energy on this, what are the odds we’ll get back on the Moon, defeat al-Qeda or have an infrastructure in the Top 50?

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