Saturday, December 3, 2016

Media Matters

"In the symbolic universe of a community, there dwell multiple narratives - some shining at the forefront, vivid and unmistakable; some in the background, indistinct and half-forgotten; some sleeping, some recently awakened, and many in uneasy contradiction to others. If [one] wishes to [communicate a narrative] ... he is inventing no god, but merely calling upon one to take precedence over another."
The End of Education, 1996, Neil Postman


New Symposium: Rescuing Discourse from the Political Parties

The topic for Tuesday, January 31, 2017 

“The Future of News in the Digital Age”

Legacy media, the old and often reliable newspapers and magazines that informed Americans for many decades, are in the throes of unprofitability and decline (remember the classifieds section?; Google ad revenue was $70 million dollars in 2001; twelve years later, $50.6 billion), due in part to the changing habits of readers. Jeff Bazos of Amazon claims that the average age of readers of news on printed paper goes up about one year every year.

The days of depending (for better or for worse) on Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor, Peter Jennings, and Tom Brokaw are long gone. One might argue that the decline of the mainstream media has been more than coincidental with the decline of the political center. Who would argue that the internet is not promoting fragmentation and the gathering of news readers into like-minded, online communities? Robert G. Kaiser, former Senior Editor at Time declares “the news media are fragmenting just as American society is fragmenting—by class, by region, by religious inclination, by generation, by ethnic identity, by politics and more.”

Furthermore, in the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, we have had expanded, sadly, our awareness of flawed news, fake news, and confirmation bias. What is to be done?

When and Where

We ought to get together and talk some things through. Let’s plan on gathering
  • on Tuesday, January 31, from 7 until 8:30 p.m 
  • at the offices of Social Networking Technologies, Inc. in the High Touch Building at 110 S Main St #600 (William and Main) in Wichita.

Questions for Consideration

The following questions (each closely related to the others) beg answers as we confront the disruption, even havoc, that the internet and media bias have had on professional journalism, the pursuit of truth, and the political process:
  1. What are the motives and incentives that shape the “news” produced by the different forms of media (some more centralized, traditional, or corporate than others)? What should they be?
  2. Given the internet’s enormous potential for misinformation, how can one find “just the facts”?  When everyman’s a journalist, what happens to accountability for telling the truth?
  3. Has the centralized, legacy media been caught up in the hyper-polarization of American politics?  If so, is there a remedy?  Can we have tough, independent investigative journalism that does not start with presupposition and prejudice?
  4. What is the future of explanatory journalism that emphasizes nuance and context in a digital age in which speed and headlines are prized?  How could Twitter and Snapchat ever properly inform?
  5. Are digital media/communications making us all attention-deficit?  Are we too easily "informed"?
    Should you or someone you recommend desire to be a panelist, a minimum 200-word position statement must be submitted to  If you are selected by the trustees to be a panelist, we will publish a personal bio and your position statement on the blogsite.

    Our Featured Symposiasts [Panelists]

    Please join me in extending a hearty welcome to the featured symposiasts below. They will graciously contribute their viewpoints as starting points in our upcoming dialogue. And although we like to list their association with an important organization in their life, the viewpoints they express are their own which may or may not reflect any official positions of that organization. If they have given us a Bio and/or Position Statement, you can read them by clicking on their name and/or the PS after their introduction.
    • W. Davis (Buzz) Merritt - in absentia - a centralized/legacy media editor or producer of what is “newsworthy” - PS
      We are very grateful to Davis for his pre-dialogue contributions of important, experience-based thoughts to our subject, but we must announce that he will be unable to attend the evening's dialogue. We will miss his sound words and hope to bring him back in the future. In the meantime here are his Comments In Absentia for our consideration.

    • David Allen Seaton - editor/publisher of localized online news who is responsible for determining, editing and producing what is "newsworthy" - The Cowley Courier Traveler [] 
      are very glad to welcome David Seaton. His last minute willingness to present an editor/publisher's point of view will help maintain the important breadth Davis Merritt would have added to our evening's dialogue had he been able to attend as planned.
    • Dave Trabert - a contributor to centralized/legacy media and to decentralized social media - Kansas Policy Institute - PS
    • Mike Marlett - multi-faceted designer, reporter and editor working in online news, local newspapers, centralized/legacy media and organizational websites - PS 
    • Mark McCormick - a writer for centralized/legacy media and for decentralized social media - The Kansas African American Museum
    • Bob Weeks - an avid consumer of centralized and decentralized media - PS

    So, there you have it

    In anticipation of a stimulating evening together, we invite YOU to "warm up" to this topic by reviewing our blogging guidelines on the "Symposiasts" page then  joining the blog. Our moderator will use our collective blog input to help plan and guide the evening's dialogue in order to make it as exciting and as relevant as possible.

    Ready, Set, GO

    After reviewing our initial Questions for Consideration ... our panelists' initial Position Statements ... and the 20+ blog Comments and Replies below ... we have come up with a powerpoint set of Segments & Questions [S&Q] we will use to divide our panelists' dialogue into 4x20-minute periods. Each segment will suggest a potential shift in focus to a different major line of thought with several minor questions.

    The S&Q is not intended to limit the panelists in any way as they work together to give color and shape to their thoughts. The evening is THEIR dialogue ... and we are simply glad they have been gracious enough to let us "think along" with them as it unfolds.

    We hope to see you there ... Tuesday evening at 7:00 pm ... and remember to invite a friend. 

    An Evening to Remember

    Thanks to Paul Soutar at Graphic Lens for the evening's fine photo, audio and video enhancements. If you were unable to attend ... or if you just want to go over some key points again ... click here for Paul's beautifully edited YouTube AV recording of the New Symposium on Media Matters.

    And thanks to our panelists and our audience for an evening of stimulating thought and talk. While the dialogue left most of us with more questions than we had when we came, it also helped us gain a wider and richer contextual appreciation for ... the many and varied issues and forces ... that are continuously at work ... seeking equilibrium through dynamic relationships with each other ... in the fascinating and important world of "news in the digital age".

    In the bonds of civil discourse pursuing truth,
    Mike Witherspoon, a trustee of New Symposium