Veteran newsman Knowlton Nash has had a fifty-year love affair with the business of journalism. It’s a “beautiful business,” he says, but one headed for big trouble. In Trivia Pursuit, Nash explores the threats and challenges facing the news media today and tries to discern the direction it will take in the new century.
The news media are awash in sensationalism, as is clear from the lavish coverage given to every tiny detail of Princess Diana’s death and funeral, and the breathless and casually inaccurate news stories on President Clinton’s alleged extramarital sex life. In their efforts to entice new readers and viewers, much of the media are turning tawdry gossip into news; as Nash puts it, they are startling our eyeballs rather than engaging our minds. Squeezed out or reduced to the briefest glance by the superabundance of trivia are stories that have a direct bearing on how we conduct our lives and our public affairs.
Nash shows us that the news media have always struggled with the issue of whether their role is to inform or to entertain, yet the pendulum has never before swung so lopsidedly. The work of the journalist as gatekeeper, as the sorter of truth from lies and fact from innuendo, is crumbling before the competitive onslaught of the Internet, which allows gossip to travel the world as fast as fact, and of cable and satellite television, which threaten to disintegrate mass communication into “boutique journalism.”
Nash is no Cassandra, however. Soon, he believes, the pendulum will swing back. Soon the public will learn to navigate the new technologies to find thoughtful, well-presented, honest, “name-brand” news – the lifeblood of a democratic society. For regardless of whether it’s delivered by newspapers, television, or the Internet, there will always be a demand for quality news and an effective medium for delivering it.
Author : Knowlton Nash