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Letter to the Editor: The 24-hour news cycle ‘virus’

Staff Reports • Updated Jun 18, 2016 at 2:00 PM

To the Editor:

I write in consideration of the issues facing us today – terrorism, gun rights, mass murder, religion, social intolerance, ultra conservatism or ultra liberalism, economic fears, the vital elements of privacy and constitutional rights. Yet these topics are elements of our nation and world we have always confronted since our founding, and in truth, throughout the history of humankind. 

Before our nation was a “nation,” we fought the same issues and propaganda with the exception that information distribution took weeks or months before a news story reached the masses of governing bodies and overall society.

In our modern time – a murdering monster can Tweet, Facebook, text, etc – while still acting in the commission of his or her crime instantaneously for all practical purposes.

If we had cellphones, with their current capabilities to reach news agencies and citizenry across the globe in seconds, think of the violent events in our nation or world’s past – Concord, Bunker Hill, Camden, New Orleans, Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Ford’s Theatre, San Juan Hill, Custer’s Last Stand, Verdun, the Meuse-Argonne, Warsaw, Dunkirk, Normandy, Bastogne, Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, Hirosima, the Chosin Reservoir, Ia Drang Valley, Khe Shan, Saigon – all the way until the present conflicts, which currently are covered not simply on the evening news but via “breaking news” tags in our mass media. What and where would our nation be today if that technology shaped our national belief when George Washington’s Continental Army nearly lost during the times of our revolution or Lincoln witnessed the slaughter of thousands of Americans on venerated battlefields of the American Civil War?

Our enemy today is not only simply the actions of our leaders, but also their reaction to gain acceptance amid the “24 hour” news cycle, where the speed of instant communications has created a true global “virus” as detrimental as a physical ailment.

We, our leadership and indeed the world reacts in seconds versus the time needed for thoughtful and weighed perspective to make critical decisions concerning a best course of action for our nation on nearly every topic of critical importance, foreign and domestic.

We have created a media virus, I fear, may someday be the downfall of our society – not because we failed to use technology and its power, yet we failed to realize how we manipulated its immediacy for ends based upon emotion, ratings, sponsors, etc., versus logic and reason.

Edward R. Murrow warned the media of a descent into wreckless journalism during remarks in 1958 stating, “This instrument (television) can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire. But it can do so only to the extent that humans are determined to use it to those ends. Otherwise it is merely wires and lights in a box. There is a great and perhaps decisive battle to be fought against ignorance, intolerance and indifference. This weapon of television could be useful. Stonewall Jackson, who knew something about the use of weapons, is reported to have said, ‘When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard.’ The trouble with television is that it is rusting in the scabbard during a battle for survival.”

Perhaps our minds are rusting in the same scabbard, becoming too entranced though bias and ratings versus truth and the rigors of true, nonpartisan journalism.

Niki Gentry

Mt. Juliet

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