(Not enough) News Media

News today has changed directions. This is not to say that news is not being produced by media outlets, but rather that the information consumed is no longer what it once was.

I am describing the shift in news that is no longer stories of substance, but rather a new marketing strategy to gain views and clicks where no beneficial content can be found.

Marshall McLuhan said this of news media: “Both book and newspaper are confessional in character, creating the effect of inside story by their mere form, regardless of content. As the book page yields the inside story of the author’s mental adventures, so the press page yields the inside story of the community in action and interaction. It is for this reason that the press seems to be performing its function most when revealing the seamy side. Real news is bad news –bad news about somebody, or bad news for somebody.” (p. 226)

The draw of newspapers and books was the promise of information to come. It brings readers in, from the cover to the story. Bad news is also the news that will create the most buzz. This is an unfortunate fact about how news is received, but when was the last time that you stayed with a story for more than a day when it was generally positive (besides that baby giraffe being born.) Nowadays, news can be distributed in more ways than at the time of McLuhan, which means there is more accessibility, more content, and much, much more competition. The blame for this transition can be followed back to the beginning of 24-hour news. The movie Anchorman 2 is a perfect example of how news changed at its conception. I do believe though that news has now taken an even steeper shift in a negative direction due to the push for more constant and current content than ever before.

Headlines have become “buzz-lines” designed to bring focus to a story, even if there isn’t much content of substance. Articles online (the newspapers of this generation) run with headlines like: “You Won’t Believe What Mr. Whoever Just Shut Down” or “Senator Somebody Just Ended the Debate on Something.” And these articles come out constantly, with little amounts of content and minimal quotes or facts. They are designed simply to draw in readers with seductive words that sound like juicy drama, but have little true information.

“The speed-up of information gathering and publishing naturally created new forms of arranging material for readers. As early as 1830 the French poet Lamartine had said, ‘The book arrives too late,’ drawing attention to the fact that the book and the newspaper are quite different forms.” (p. 227)

As our ability to receive information grows faster, so does our capabilities to filter what content comes in. Social media has already used this concept to “push” certain content to the users that will most likely agree with it. It is essentially a way of ensuring that your opinion will be reinforced without even going to look for that information. Some publications will even write two different articles (with different perspectives) and portray them as their lead story, and then those who believe in that content will immediately see it.

This new level of immediacy is causing a serious downgrade in what some news outlets (not all) portray as “news.” Clickbait is now the new way to gain readership and ensure that a story will be read. Not only is this a robbery of time and attention, but consumers are becoming more complacent with these minimalist stories and don’t even look at the issues themselves. The pressure of always being forced to produce trending content has caused a major drop in the quality of our news outlets.

What steps should be taken to demand more from our news medias?


McLuhan, M. (1994). Understanding media: the extensions of man. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


McLuhan: My new hero … sort of:)

For starters, I think we can all agree on one thing … we could go on and on about Marshall McLuhan. Summing this up in 500-750 words, I think, is near impossible. So forgive me if this blog post seems to jump around.
Through reading “Understanding Media. The Extension of Man,” and the two videos for this week, I thought Marshall McLuhan was negative or pessimistic to the consequences of technology. I agree to a certain extent – and don’t get me wrong I think the man is a genius – but I don’t think all technology or moving toward an electronic society is all a bad thing.
When McLuhan would say things like “Environment is a technological thing,” and “man fears new environments, but doesn’t mean all environments are dangerous,” it really hit me how everything is technology. How everything spirals from one medium into a new medium. “The new is made up of the old,” said by McLuhan. I guess I never really stopped to think about that. I also don’t know how McLuhan had a metaphor for LITERALLY everything, but I’m thoroughly impressed.
McLuhan used terms like “roughing up” in a sense that new mediums “rough up” the old. However, I think some new mediums make the old mediums better. For instance, AM and FM radio. AM radio still exists – and I think always will. But FM is improved quality. That spiraled into the visual mediums.
In the video “This is Marshall McLuhan: The Medium is the Message,” I loved when he said everyone has their own set of goggles. Each generation has a different set, but everyone thinks they’re looking at the same thing and you’re not. That hit me hard, because I think that’s exactly what is still happening today, especially when it comes to the “virtual” world of social media.
“Are you living in today’s world?” That question asked I think goes back to everyone looking in their own set of goggles. What is truly today’s world when we all perceive it differently and see it differently.
“Any extension of ourselves — results from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”
He then goes on to say that new patterns of human association tend to eliminate jobs. This can be said about the way McDonald’s is even going with the machines where you go up and order, just like the ones at GetGo and Sheets. Human interaction isn’t necessary anymore. He says this is a negative impact of modern technology. I think job loss is not a good thing, but I think with the ongoing protests for wages of $15 an hour, it shows how everyone should be careful what they ask for, because clearly we can all be replaced – going back to the fearful environment.
Again, I could quote McLuhan forever … but “privacy doesn’t have the same meaning anymore.”
If that quote was true then, what would he say now with social media and the way the internet is used? Or what would he say if he saw the documentary we watched last week “Living in Public.”
I’m not going to lie, his use of “cold” and “hot” media was a bit confusing to me. I sat in Starbucks for far too long rereading those pages, trying to wrap my head around what would be a “hot” media and a “cold” media today. So please, if anyone can help me out on this topic, I would really appreciate it.
McLuhan discussed even how technology alters people physically. “Man in the normal use of technology (or his variously extended body) is perpetually modified by it and in turn finds ever new ways of modifying his technology.” As body shaming continues to take social media by storm, I think this is an example today how McLuhan said technology changes how we view our bodies and alters the image we have of ourselves. Everyone tries so hard to look like the models that are plastered everywhere on the internet. The constant seeking public approval through social media affects how we view ourselves. For instance, a picture posted on Instagram – if that person doesn’t get a certain amount of likes, they take it down and might have lower self-efficacy (wow, something from last week stuck – ha).
“It’s a persistent theme of this book that all technologies are extensions of our physical and nervous systems to increase power and speed.” McLuhan said how communication has an extensive connection with transportation, like the wheel, boats, the railroad. But I even think the use of “speed” relates to the instantaneous world we live in. Everyone wants information, and they want it NOW. I see this everyday in my job. It’s digital first. Facebook live as soon as you get to a scene so people can tune in as it’s happening in real-time. Post information to the website and send it as a push notification so people get it instantly on their phone. Communication is hyper speed now. Not sure if we can get my faster, or we might all become physics and predict what’s going to happen before it does. However, McLuhan also says the speed has made everything more understanding. The use of Google and search engines has made information available at our finger tips, making us all able to take in more information quicker.
That same thing can be said about numbers. The use of social media has allowed people to spread their message from the comfort of their home around the world. When going Facebook live for work, we will get people who comment “Hi from Hawaii,” and so on. Our goal is to go “viral,” and McLuhan alluded to that same concept when he said, “The pleasure of being among the masses is the sense of the joy in the multiplication of numbers, which has long been suspect among the literate members of Western Society.” However, I felt McLuhan focused on the negative of the power of spreading information that quickly and to mass amounts of people when he talked about the first televised war, the weapons, the crime, etc. Yes, I think there are negative effects on the death and destruction kids can see on TV and the internet now, but there’s also positives to being able to learn with those mediums. One thing that really stuck with me was when he said the education level outside the school room is now higher than inside the school room. But now schools are starting to incorporate that inside the classroom, bringing iPads, tablets and online homework into the curriculum and classroom.
In the nearly completely digital world we live in today, I think what McLuhan said about print will always be true. “It is usually forgotten that without prints and blueprints, without maps and geometry, the world of modern sciences and technologies would hardly exist.” But even more so, if it was forgotten then, I really think it’s forgotten now in the world of GPS, Siri, printed newspapers down to one, maybe two days a week. If it wasn’t for anything that came before the internet, paper maps made by voyagers, etc., we wouldn’t have the luxuries we have today. I call them luxuries, I think McLuhan might disagree with me on that and call them dangerous. The printed world is an “art” form that I think should be preserved for as long as possible. Hopefully it never goes away.
McLuhan says we live in a world where everything changes so rapidly. Yes, that’s true. But I think some concepts, metaphors and instances that he wrote about and studied his entire life will never change no matter what medium or message it may become in the future. New mediums are going to continue to form out of the “old” (the ones we have now, soon to be old), that’s inevitable based on McLuhan’s views on technology. Everyone always says, “If I would’ve thought (x) amount of years ago I would see the things I do today, I would’ve thought I was crazy.” In fact, my grandmother said that this past weekend about if she would’ve known years ago that she would take pictures with the same device she can talk on and search the internet at the same time, she would’ve laughed. Well, I cant wait to see what’s next.
But all-in-all … the biggest thing I learned this week from McLuhan (kidding)… if you’re ever in trouble or need help, yell “fire,” not “help.” That I won’t forget!