Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

The Reading Habit

Posted on | February 6, 2009 | No Comments

Roger Ebert’s reading newspapers again. We can all exhale.
But Roger’s not the issue. He’s an old ink-stained wretch like some of us (and, man, can he transform the mighty pen into sword it when he needs to!)
My kids aren’t even the issue. They grew up in a family of newspaper, magazine and book readers and writers.
I’m not even sure print is the issue any more.
The issue is there’s too much to read. Reading is overwhelming today because there’s so much information that it’s difficult to know where to start.

We read a lot (maybe more than ever today) as we troll the Web for hours on end. (Way more hours now that we’re all out of work). But is really reading. It seems more trolling than reading; it’s nibbling at the hors d’oeuvres as the trays glide by us. After a while, we feel full and leave feeling we’ve been nourished. But it’s not nutritious, really. Snacking is not eating in the way that hearing is not listening.
The trolling habit replaces the reading habit and pretty soon we think we’re knowledgeable but we’re not, and the complex world happens around us and we think we know what’s going on, know it all, but we don’t, really. This has consequences.
When the world scales to infinite digital news stories and 500-word blog posts and 24-hour television news sound bites, we’re snacking on Cheetohs.

The question has been raised recently: Would the economic storm that blew in last year have been less surprising if we didn’t have shrinking news organizations across the land? Might some of it been mitigated? Would Bernie Madoff have been busted rather than end up turning himself in? (There were one or two voices in the wilderness, but more is better).
We’ll never know.
But I DO know that as we troll online and troll through images we see on TVs we can’t avoid (restaurants, bars, offices, bathrooms, waiting rooms), we’re starving to death.

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No Responses to “The Reading Habit”

  1. Loring Wirbel
    February 6th, 2009 @ 9:48 pm

    aaahhh, friggin softies. I read one magazine, two chapters of fiction, two chapters of nonfiction a day, along with work, working out, listening to music, watching only the minimum TV necessary, blogging and trolling online, but not wasting hours with pointless activity like video games or tweeting. This level of multitasking is easily possible by concentrating on staying Renaissance-style, removing redundancy, and not wasting time on crap and empty-headedness. Piece of friggin’ cake. As you have pointed out, part of the problem is whining entitlement-generation types who don’t try to be Nietzschean. No sympathy. Curmudgeon has grumbled.

  2. wretch
    February 7th, 2009 @ 3:41 pm

    It would take more time than I’m willing to devote to remind you of the list of failures of the mainstream media over the last several decades, and I suspect you could generate the list yourself. The MSM hasn’t been in any position to help for years, aside from providing a forum for Sydney Blumenthals and Dexter Filkinses, etc.,

  3. Loring Wirbel
    February 7th, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

    Then DIY. Be the media.

  4. Greeley's Ghost
    February 8th, 2009 @ 7:03 pm

    Ummmmm, need I remind you guys that we aren’t necessarily the target audience? I think the three of us are probably NOT the target TV audience and never have been. So of course we’re reading.
    Brian’s point is well taken: the MSM has stepped on its you-know-what for decades. They’re as myopic as some religions in that respect.

  5. Loring Wirbel
    February 9th, 2009 @ 10:28 am

    Watching MSM for a clue as to how the media should be is like watching the Grammies for a clue as to what the best music of the year is.

  6. KoiFish
    February 9th, 2009 @ 1:43 pm

    I, alas, watch more TV than I should. Good news for you guys, you aren’t missing very much.

    But, since Brian and Loring seem to be major consumers (and producers) of written media content, do you think the quality of reporting by the mainstream media has declined? Do you think they’ve become less objective?

    I think the answer to both questions is yes. If only all media could be cut from the same cloth as the ladies and gents that have written for EE Times, I think the world would be a better place (and, yes, I’m being serious here).

    Loring is right — the best answer is to become the media.

    BTW, the three of you might want to check out my latest blog post entitled “Freedom Isn’t Free, But is Mainstream Media Content Worth Paying For?

    It touches on many of these topics.

  7. Loring Wirbel
    February 9th, 2009 @ 2:33 pm

    Nice commentary in your blog, Dean. In answer to your question, the very fact that there are fewer pages in print, faster turnaround online, and smaller staff to do the work, inevitably means a dip in quality, except for the obvious stalwarts like NYT, WSJ, Economist – but how long can the elite few survive?

  8. Cary Ussery
    February 11th, 2009 @ 5:43 pm

    Perhaps we are not reading the right things. I have always thought you can learn more about what going on in the world reading fiction, especially new novels. There is an undercurrent in culture and thought that gets lost in reading about the “current” thing. But perhaps I am just a liberal arts holdout.

    Certainly I am no expert on the media like you guys. It is interesting to be in China and see the different take on world news between different countries and different cultures.

  9. Greeley's Ghost
    February 14th, 2009 @ 3:10 pm

    Cary, great point. I remember asking another CEO what he reads (thinking maybe he read a certain trade pub and probably read the Wall Street Journal and certainly read the Economist).
    He didn’t read any of them regularly. He read history.
    Reading novels perhaps gives us insight into humanity such that we can transfer it into our business relationships.
    Hope you’re still have a great time in the Middle Kingdom, Cary!

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