Friday, February 19, 2010

The Broadcast of the Narrowcast

This is posted from Father Z's blog WDTPRS, from a reader's comment. I loved the comment so much I wanted to post it here.

I’m going to stick my nose in here as a 20-year veteran of the broadcast industry (full disclosure: I’m in private industry now, but still maintain my hands in trying to build a Catholic radio news service network via the net….).

The old model of broadcast (‘we talk, you listen’) with its top-down model of American Big Broadcast Company (sic) sitting at the top and ostensibly local ‘affiliates’ at the point of distribution is rapidly being swept into the dustbin. It’s inefficient, both from a physical plant (you should have seen the ABC Radio Net head end in NYC, where I spent almost 11 years…very impressive, but, ultimately, inflexible to handle the new models). As the country gets wired more and more for network connectivity, the means of production, distribution, and, dare say, formation of opinion, becomes more and more ‘democratized’ and moved to the level of local origination and control to a global audience. It’s a peasant’s revolt, in many ways. Noisy, wrestling in the mud, chaotic. But a revolt, nonetheless.

Why? On some level, nature (in all its wondrous forms) abhors a vacuum. And by relying on a few self-appointed (and self-righteous to some extent), there developed a vacuum of divergent thought. For too long, we depended on the good offices of a somewhat amorphous ‘network’ that was, to a large extent, extremely inbred and clannish, being the filters of what could be considered ‘news worthy’; it was a feature of every news organization I worked for (and I worked for some of the best…and still have friends ‘in the biz’...) that they monitored each other…so, to a large extent, what you saw or heard was based on an informal consensus among people, though they worked for different companies, all attended the same parties, union shop meetings, or restaurants. Very insular, and, that’s why, except for presentational differences, the major networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN…leaving Fox out, since they’re the rebels according to the zeitgeist of the other 4…) all seem to tell the same story in the same order. It IS pack journalism…been there, done that, and even contributed to it from time to time.

Contrast that to what you see in the internet and blogosphere. Even though Fr. Z and a lot of the other well-known apologists have had face time on the tube, there are just as many others, you and me included, who also provide sources of information, insight, and intelligence to an audience we never may know of (I’m constantly surprised at where people are listening from when I look at my streaming logs…), and we know not what effect. The traditional nets do, certainly.

But, you can see the grasping and flailing around as the Old Guard (or gatekeeper, if you will) tries to impress its model of information distribution on a means of dispersal that is, by its very nature, unable to be funneled into a set and predictable pattern. The very unruliness of the democratization of information dispersal makes it so.

So, for every Andrew Sullivan or Ariana Huffington, there’s a Father Z., Thomas Peters, or Amy Welborn. Whereas before, only Huffingtons of the world may have been heard (since their viewpoints all kind of fall into the same sociopolitical groove as the traditional gatekeepers…), we’ve taken it upon ourselves to give voice to what was studiously ignored or marginalized for too many years.

And that’s a good thing. The more truth that is spoken to power, the more power overreacts and drives people away. I believe that people of good will WANT to hear the truth. And the duty of every Catholic is to preach the Gospel. It’s been driven down too long. And that’s why the traditional electronic media, cat box liners such as NCR, and the New York Slimes are struggling. Because they no longer control the sole means of information distribution.

I could go on…but probably overstayed my welcome…

Comment by Bryan — 18 February 2010 @ 8:23 am