Living in the Bay Area, you see more than your share of vehicles with barely an inch of paint visible beneath a nearly solid plastering of bumper stickers.
If you're like me, such infestations inspire the following thought: "The more bumper stickers you have, the less I care what you think."
Sadly, it's easy to tune out even important messages when they're repeated ad infinitum. In the world of news reporting, this Internet-enabled cacophony is yet another way we've learned to talk more and say less.
As you may have learned if you stood near a newspaper box, television, radio, or computer this weekend, a pair of Muni trains collided with one-another
. Like many folks tasked with reporting what's going on in this city, I have a "Google Alert" for the term "San Francisco." Stories featuring prominent use of the name of our fair city are e-mailed directly to me. Unfortunately, the echo chamber of news on the Internet means that "breaking alerts" often resemble the frenzied repetitions shouted through the junior high school locker room of who kissed whom. I received no fewer than 20 "breaking alerts" reporting on the train accident; most were repackagings of earlier reportings. And, once there was no more to add, a bevy of bloggers re-repackaged the whole thing with their original contribution being the lead-in, "Jesus Christ, did you hear about this?" followed by an AP or Chronicle
Being barraged with dozens of tellings and retellings of the same story from every possible angle makes one feel a bit like King Kong fending off Sopwith Camels. A few of them would have been reasonable -- but 20? This is ridiculous! I'm grabbin' Fay Wray and climbing the Chrystler Building!
Separating the meat from the fat won't get any easier for those of us being pelted with dozens and dozens of stories. Thanks to Twitter, social networking, and everyone having a blog -- and every paper having 25 of them -- there's never been more information to sift through. But, as noted before, our new technology allows us to talk more and more while saying less and less. I suppose Twitter and live-blogging would be practical for reporting in the midst of a street riot. But do we really need to know which supervisor voted on which measure the instant it happened -- and then not do any analytical follow-up? Are we really helped by knowing what happened the moment it occurred but not having any idea what it means?
But you'll have to excuse me now -- I've gotten another Google Alert. Apparently Jonathan Sanchez pitched a no-hitter! Who woulda thunk it?