Posts Tagged ‘onion’

Don’t Blame the Media. Blame Yourself.

September 14, 2009

pointWhen the you know what hits the fan, somehow it’s always the media who threw it there.

School violence? Blame the media. Disputed election? Blame the media. Economic collapse? Blame the media. Natural disasters? Blame the media. OK, the last one’s from a 1999 Onion classic, but, you get the point. The media are the world’s go-to scapegoats.

Well, world, start looking for a new scapegoat. I don’t know, El Niño maybe?

Audiences’ power to choose and shape content is growing by the day. It’s reached the point where academics have begun looking for a new word to describe media consumers. “Audience” just seems way too passive. A few of my classmates offered “specticipants” as an alternative. There. It’s published now. We’ll see whether it catches on.

With great power, comic book fans, comes great responsibility. Interactive media give audiences a say in whether content promotes violence, treats candidates fairly or unmasks financial misbehavior. And to the extent they don’t, they enable audiences to call out publishers when content isn’t up to their standards.

The hyperlinked Web was built for media criticism. Sites like FactCheck.org correct the record when media distort information or regurgitate the misinformation of others and have inspired news organizations to fold similar models into their own coverage.

To media critics of the armchair variety: you can’t have it both ways. Newspaper readers routinely flame a publication for running allegedly sensaltionst stories while clicking on them in droves. Taking a stand? Vote with your clicks, not just your comments. Click on content that upholds your ideals. Don’t click on content that doesn’t. Hop on Digg and thumbs up content you like. Thumbs down content you don’t.

Self-policing communities like Wikipedia and Second Life, although not perfect, embody the right spirit. There, if users don’t like what’s going on, they don’t assign blame, they fix it. So, all those complainers out there, get a fixin’.