Monday, May 10, 2010

Bill Clinton Compares Today's And Yesterday's News Media

Former president Bill Clinton was interviewed on PBS's new show Need To Know on May 7, 2010. One of the questions was about the change in the media landscape today compared to 1992, when he won the presidential election. Here is part of President Clinton's answer in my transcript:

"The good news is that people who are comfortable in cyberspace can get more information more quickly than ever before. The bad news is that you often don't even know if the facts are right, and it promotes - in terms of our citizenship, our politics - a 21st century version of what we saw in the early 19th century, when only white male property owners could vote, and there were zillions of newspapers, and they were avowedly political and written with a political stance so you couldn't tell the difference between the editorial page and the news page."
He compared this to today's "atomized" media world with all the blogs, and where a lot of young get their news from cable shows and comedy shows like John Stewart's.
"The thing I'm worry about number one is the loss of a common fact base. When I was a kid the Vietnam war was raging and the civil rights movement was being contested. We had three major networks so that there was enough competition between them to keep them honest, and they could afford send people of my age to Vietnam to cover events, people with 30 years of experience, people who knew the history, people who were deeply involved, and they didn't necessary have to have a quick hit everynight on the news, or a big flash every day in the news stories. The atomization of the communication network have given us access to more information than ever before, but it has made it more difficult to have a common dialog. The economic pressures on the media, on the news magazines, on the daily papers, all this stuff is making it more difficult to have a common dialog. The other thing I think it's worth pointing out, is that it's human nature to be around people who like you, but that's not good in politics. In politics you need to talk to people that disagree with you."
Hans Sandberg

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