Discomfort Zones

If vinyl records can make comebacks, why can’t reputable print media mimic the same resurgence in 2020?

Digital was heralded as superior to pressed platters. Not only were the means far less cumbersome than 45s and albums, but modern devices rewarded listeners immediately. No more aligning the stylus into a groove. No more plugging in adapters to suit skinny spindles. A few finger flicks and music would pour forth through speakers, earphones, or buds.

Why, digital music has brought us at least two generations of listeners so enthralled they no longer practice such possibly life-saving measures as looking both ways before crossing streets or disregarding their surroundings and those inhabiting them altogether thanks to aural numbing.

After being declared dead, vinyl sales have revived because modern conveniences haven’t yet equaled, much less surpassed, the quality of sound issued by records.

Digital cannot summon the warmth, the same timbre, the depth of feeling, subtleties of phrasing an adept singer can set upon records. Listening to Frank Sinatra sing on albums off a turntable’s speakers best confers how he absolutely captivated audiences. The arousals those songs created are the reasons behind a great many of us walk this earth today.

Digital also cannot give the assurances of diligence the American public had come to take for granted from the printed hard-copy word.

Too often digital excludes our humanity.

Like albums and 45s, newspapers and magazines have become to be seen as having lost their essential importance. Gleaning information from newsprint or glossy magazine pages is increasingly regarded as a slow and ineffective method of news distribution. Indeed digital transmission permits instantaneous knowledge, a fine development if speed was all that mattered concerning the news.

But news demands accuracy. News is not a flavor to be savored one day then discarded for something better tasting the next morning. News minus accuracy is useless. Or worse, propaganda. At its extreme, Fox News.

In our current society’s mania to be informed fast, we’ve frittered away plenty of basic news reporting principles. When I see what too many have been duped into believing as news, I mustn’t wonder whether my old journalism professors would suffer seizures.

Owing to the nature of wanting to be told first, being right has been gladly forfeited. Of course retractions, or better, “corrections,” can always provide fig leaves but once the initial item has been released, revisions never pierce as deep as the misreporting. Moreover, revisions always further emphasize the original. Doesn’t the reading public often look at these modifications with suspicion? As if some obscure “them” demanded the truth be hidden and something less sharp substituted.

Moreover, and I can attest to what follows from having been an ink-stained wretch who learned his craft at a reputable journalism program, stories reaching print have been proofread and fact-checked. That could be a maybe yes, maybe no proposition when it comes down to digitally published material.

A good percentage of what clogs digital media is hearsay, rumor, gossip, or innuendo perfumed to smell like actual news. And all this before the Russians started mining the gullibility of information consumers residing in America’s less dynamic precincts and right-wingers starving for disinformation nationwide.

All those ignorant boobs want are their biases reinforced.

The aforementioned have always been skeptics of the truth regarding the United States’ less pleasant aspects. Theirs an older society much more devious than ours, the Russians are skilled at strangling facts and contaminating minds ready to disregard reality for toxic preconceptions.

During the 2016 election, the Muscovite minions of Bad Vlad and his Kremlin Krew must’ve looked at the portion of American voters already disposed against Hillary Clinton the same way the czar’s secret police regarded the era’s serfs – as brain-dead sheep needing scant persuading to cut their own throats.

To verify that, one only needs to look at how still unrepentant Southerners (and their sympathizers throughout our country) lionize and venerate the traitors who rebelled against the Union. The Confederate memorials they wish to keep fouling their communities, the fights to keep stars & bars fluttering over public spaces, are surface symptoms.

More pernicious has been the gradual twisting of America’s era of slavery. The “peculiar institution” which enslaved blacks, dehumanized them, and enacted laws to confirm their inferior status would be, if the rebel keepers of the flame had their way, be seriously argued as having benefited the subjugated.

How such jibes with any qualities true Americans wish to extol is the sort of convoluted thinking easily infecting the gleefully moronic among us.

Before printing, after a reporter or writer has filed his or her copy, editors of all stripes thumb through it. Various desks must be satisfied that what may appear meets suitable responsible criteria. That exchange doesn’t really exist in much in online media, particularly those advocating right-wing issues.

And these days, increasingly reactionary right-wingers further see news sources our nation had known as reliable and impartial now support one side or the other. To these skeptics objective news no longer exists. Items now must fall on one side or the other. Everything is focused and intended to direct. Or misdirect as well as misinform.

For Americans who’ve always thought the mainstream media lied or habitually tilted left, these Trump times are gloriously rewarding days. In the past honest media seemingly preoccupied itself exposing America’s wrongs. To doubters at ease with denying conditions tarnishing America’s image – even if these injured them – the press not only couldn’t unearth anything good here, but appeared hell-bent just to publish and broadcast stories tarring America.

Admirable press – and later TV news documentary units – championed the downtrodden, the disenfranchised, and more often as time went along, the marginalized. These articles and features angered the less introspective and bereft of empathy among us. They find content between the blinders which allow no sight other than our nation’s infallibility.

Instead of seeing news as mirrors or portals into the nation’s unfairness, its injustices, or regard it as spotlights upon societal inequities, those readers and watchers rather remain anchored in feel-good falsehoods solid reportage has otherwise disproven. For many Americans lies comfort and reassure. Having these thoroughly disputed shakes them to the core.

They can’t handle it. And that’s a fact.