When Newsweek went under and was bought by the Daily Beast for nothing, I thought the better of the two big news weeklies had just gone away. It was one of those moments like the fall of the Soviet Union that you saw coming, but now that it had happened it didn't seem real. A death in the family, but not someone close. More a marking of the passing of time than anything. So you wonder why, with the door closing on the lifestyle that used to give pubs like Time and Newsweek a reason to exist, that Time sustains the old lie that who they think is influential is meaningful.
I read Jay Rosen's question, why don't people trust the press. So I decided, to help me answer the question, I would turn on the TV and see what they were talking about at the moment. Andrea Mitchell was interviewing Roger Simon about Mitt Romney's dog. He says the story just won't go away. I don't know if that explains why people shouldn't trust the news, but it sure explains why there's no point watching the news.
The other day I wrote about the CNN reporter with the view from somewhere. She probably wouldn't have asked this question. In fact, I challenge the legitimacy of the question. Ask me why I don't trust the news, and I can give you half an answer. To give a real answer you'd have to explain which news are you wanting to know why I don't trust. (And there is some news that I do trust, reporters who I think wouldn't deliberately steer me in the wrong direction, which is what I think it means to trust a reporter.)
Anyway, back to Time's most influential list. What do they mean by that? I look at their list, and many of the people who I know who are on the list don't say very much. How can someone be influential if they don't say anything. Maybe they don't talk publicly but they talk privately to Time editors. And what difference does that influence make? They help them write what goes into Time which I never read?
I don't even have to look at the list to know they don't.
I was struck by a comment by Evan Williams on a discussion board a few weeks ago. He said he doesn't really care what people think. You know, I'm right there with him. I like stories, information I can use. If you can sing what you think and it has a nice melody or beat (or both), I care about that too. If you say what you think in the form of a joke that makes me laugh, I care about that. But people just saying what they think. I don't care. I really don't. Just fact. Not meant to hurt your feelings. I don't think you care either. If you're reading this it probably has more to do with the writing style, or your hope that I'll say something I'll regret. People listen when they see an opportunity schadenfreud. Or sex. But you're much more likely to find schadenfreud here than sex.
That's why we like stories about people in cars being trailed by helicopters. A disaster in the making. Or the sports coach who got Alzheimer's at 60 and is so courageous about it.
The news didn't warn us about the death of the real estate market that was coming in 2008. And they weren't suspicious about the war in Iraq. They can report on sports, but that doesn't matter. More real people believe in climate change than network anchors. The news doesn't echo our skepticism or pessimism about the future. They don't help us do anything. And they can't even sing or hold a beat. What good are they!