I was mildly jolted by a paragraph in Katherine Q. Seelye and Julie Bosman‘s 6.13 N.Y. Times piece about allegations of a sexist slant in the coverage of Hillary Clinton‘s campaign, to wit: “The cable networks do not reach as many viewers as the broadcast networks — 2.6 million per night for prime-time news programs on cable compared with 23 million for broadcast — but their coverage runs in a continuous loop, is amplified by the internet and is seen by many people involved in politics.”
It felt comforting on some level to spot my little Olympus digicorder in this shot taken during a news conference aboard Hillary Clinton’s plane.
In other words, the cable-satellite TV information world that I and everyone I know lives in — MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, CSPAN, etc. — is absorbed by only one ninth of the viewing population. One viewer out of nine. So the vast majority out there are…what, people who watch TV in their kitchen or bedroom with a roof antenna or a metal coat hanger for reception? Who are watching…what, Fox News, The View, Access Hollywood and their local Stepford news hour for updates?
How much smaller is the percentage of those who (like me) constantly keep up with the news cycles online via laptops and handheld devices compared to the average 20th Century slow-boater living in Nickleodeon world and driving a car that needs a new muffler? People who go to their kids to look at this or that online but otherwise haven’t a clue? (John McCain admitted a day or two ago that he doesn’t know how to use a computer.)
Every time you take a hard look at things it comes down to the same equation — a small percentage is paying real attention to what’s going on, and the vast majority is walking around in a kind of narcotized broadcast-media head space. What happened to the idea of a 21st Century information revolution and the resultant strengthening of our democracy? It can’t begin to happen with the levels of relative ignorance being what they are these days.
It would be one thing if, say, half the population was absorbing cable and wireless news sources and the other half constituted the media underclass, but when you’ve get eight out of nine still watching broadcast TV and shuffling around the house in their hush puppies…good God. And people wonder why this is essentially a Red country with tiny little Blue nerve centers in and around the big cities.