We get the journalism we spend our attention on

You saw my last post where I showed how our journalistic resources are being squandered on a sporting event.

But now is time to look into the mirror. Truth is there’s lots of great journalism being done to uncover the important issues of our day. We just don’t care.

Rick Smolan is one of the most successful photographers of our time. His book, Day in the Life of America, is still the only coffee-table photo book to reach the top of the New York Times Bestseller list.

Yet last week when I visited him in his home in New York City he told me that only three newspapers reviewed one of his latest works: Blue Planet Run, which includes stunning photojournalism from hundreds of the world’s top photographers about the coming water crisis (which is already killing hundreds of thousands of people around the world and is a more immediate problem for billions of people than Global Warming).

Look in the mirror. Do you care? I don’t. I’d rather watch a sporting event.

Our server logs demonstrate you are the same way. You’d rather watch the Olympics too and you know it.

Anyway, Rick and Amazon are giving away the book for free now so you can see some great photojournalism. It’s a stunning book. Shocking.

Speaking of sporting events, I interviewed the guy who designs sports stadiums around the world (he designed Seattle’s Safeco Field, Los Angeles’s Staples Stadium, among others. I learned a lot about his creative process).

I also, last week, interviewed one of the developers behind NBC’s Olympics Website.

See, even I am giving my audience what it wants: sports! :-)

We get the media we spend our attention on.

71 thoughts on “We get the journalism we spend our attention on

  1. @Robert This is a response to this and your last post. I really am surprised and dismayed at the myopia displayed by these posts. If you were anyone else I’d be accusing you of linkbait but you of all people wouldn’t need to, so it can’t be that.

    I mean WOW! So you are the arbiter of what is relevant and important now. Seriously? Journalistic resources are wasted on sport? Are you for real?
    I find it stunning for someone who works with social media and social networks so much to not understand the phenomenan of sport in popular culture.

    It’s like this, imagine Techmeme and TechCrunch and technorati and google and your blog and every other technology news source combined.
    Now imagine that the whole world really cares about it, imagine that in the same way your common interest and expertise in a technology can allow you to socialise with people about it, that there is something immediate and real and dramatic that allows other people to experience the same excitment and joy that you do about technology.
    Imagine that the number of people who are empowered by this huge series of social objects and social networks includes almost THE WHOLE WORLD.

    Imagine being a poor man living in shit in Africa and seeing a young kid from a village like yours perform and to be able to say “yes we’re small and insignificant, but we can compete on the grand stages with anyone”.
    The social significance and importance of this kind of thing drives down into the heart of the human soul.
    It’s the ability to say, “that guy who won, he’s one of us, he’s like me”. A natural derivative of which is “if he can excel in his field then so can I”.

    Isn’t that a large part of the value of stories about founders of startups and new technologies. Stories of how someone came out of nowhere and overturned the established order are the lifeblood of the technology community.

    I’ve said for a long time that the Geeks and Jocks are way more alike than they would ever care to admit.

    PS> I’m also annoyed that you started THIS post with the statement that you’d “already shown how journalistic resources are being wasted on sport” when you have done nothing of the sort.

  2. @Robert This is a response to this and your last post. I really am surprised and dismayed at the myopia displayed by these posts. If you were anyone else I’d be accusing you of linkbait but you of all people wouldn’t need to, so it can’t be that.

    I mean WOW! So you are the arbiter of what is relevant and important now. Seriously? Journalistic resources are wasted on sport? Are you for real?
    I find it stunning for someone who works with social media and social networks so much to not understand the phenomenan of sport in popular culture.

    It’s like this, imagine Techmeme and TechCrunch and technorati and google and your blog and every other technology news source combined.
    Now imagine that the whole world really cares about it, imagine that in the same way your common interest and expertise in a technology can allow you to socialise with people about it, that there is something immediate and real and dramatic that allows other people to experience the same excitment and joy that you do about technology.
    Imagine that the number of people who are empowered by this huge series of social objects and social networks includes almost THE WHOLE WORLD.

    Imagine being a poor man living in shit in Africa and seeing a young kid from a village like yours perform and to be able to say “yes we’re small and insignificant, but we can compete on the grand stages with anyone”.
    The social significance and importance of this kind of thing drives down into the heart of the human soul.
    It’s the ability to say, “that guy who won, he’s one of us, he’s like me”. A natural derivative of which is “if he can excel in his field then so can I”.

    Isn’t that a large part of the value of stories about founders of startups and new technologies. Stories of how someone came out of nowhere and overturned the established order are the lifeblood of the technology community.

    I’ve said for a long time that the Geeks and Jocks are way more alike than they would ever care to admit.

    PS> I’m also annoyed that you started THIS post with the statement that you’d “already shown how journalistic resources are being wasted on sport” when you have done nothing of the sort.

  3. Since when did the USA become “around the world” … it might be amazing to people from the USA … but the world is made up of other countries too. I live in the USA, but am not from here, and it cracks me up when people talk about the “whole world” … usually they just mean the USA but are to self centered to think about anything outside their country.

  4. Since when did the USA become “around the world” … it might be amazing to people from the USA … but the world is made up of other countries too. I live in the USA, but am not from here, and it cracks me up when people talk about the “whole world” … usually they just mean the USA but are to self centered to think about anything outside their country.

  5. Fresh water is a real and present problem across much the of the socialist-backwater developing-third-world wastelands. But then so is, well, everything. Enter public sector water distribution, you get “shortages” even in Cherrapunji, India, one of on the wettest places on the earth. A good deal of these “crises” are politically generated, and then politically “fixed” — just like any good consultant, if not broken, must break to fix, validate your reason for existence.

    And yes, I believe everything, I say. Being absurd to highlight absurdity, is a common form of wit.

  6. Fresh water is a real and present problem across much the of the socialist-backwater developing-third-world wastelands. But then so is, well, everything. Enter public sector water distribution, you get “shortages” even in Cherrapunji, India, one of on the wettest places on the earth. A good deal of these “crises” are politically generated, and then politically “fixed” — just like any good consultant, if not broken, must break to fix, validate your reason for existence.

    And yes, I believe everything, I say. Being absurd to highlight absurdity, is a common form of wit.

  7. Whenever there’s a business model, you’ll find that the product will inevitably follow the money.

    News has been a package business for ages — the popular, sometimes fluffy stories subsidize the more in-depth reporting that happens because editors think (usually correctly) that it’s worth reporting.

    One of the big problems with the internet re: news is that it’s effectively de-packaged journalism, and provides the statistics to prove it. Suddenly there’s clear business logic in cutting out the “important” stuff.

    I think, though, that there are a lot of people that care about news outside of sports, and important news coverage will continue to happen. It may not happen on the same scale, but then again, people probably weren’t reading it when it was packaged either.

  8. Whenever there’s a business model, you’ll find that the product will inevitably follow the money.

    News has been a package business for ages — the popular, sometimes fluffy stories subsidize the more in-depth reporting that happens because editors think (usually correctly) that it’s worth reporting.

    One of the big problems with the internet re: news is that it’s effectively de-packaged journalism, and provides the statistics to prove it. Suddenly there’s clear business logic in cutting out the “important” stuff.

    I think, though, that there are a lot of people that care about news outside of sports, and important news coverage will continue to happen. It may not happen on the same scale, but then again, people probably weren’t reading it when it was packaged either.

  9. Christopher – I don’t know if you believe half the stuff you write or if you’re purely a sensationalist. Presuming your heart is really in what you write… do yourself a favor and download Rick and Jennifer’s free PDF at Amazon.

    Fresh water is a real and present problem across much of the world. We (the human race) are populating places where fresh drinking water is not abundant. Yes, we’re stupid animals in that sense. We pick where we live, etc.

    Doesn’t make it any less an issue though.

    I’m with you on a lot of the hoochie coo that passes for the cause du jour. This one’s not in that fold. Hope you’ll take a few to learn about it and judge for yourself. (perhaps you already have…)

  10. Christopher – I don’t know if you believe half the stuff you write or if you’re purely a sensationalist. Presuming your heart is really in what you write… do yourself a favor and download Rick and Jennifer’s free PDF at Amazon.

    Fresh water is a real and present problem across much of the world. We (the human race) are populating places where fresh drinking water is not abundant. Yes, we’re stupid animals in that sense. We pick where we live, etc.

    Doesn’t make it any less an issue though.

    I’m with you on a lot of the hoochie coo that passes for the cause du jour. This one’s not in that fold. Hope you’ll take a few to learn about it and judge for yourself. (perhaps you already have…)

  11. @Dawn: They say ignorance is bliss.

    People would rather not hear/read bad news —> advertisers are unwilling to support bad news —> bad news doesn’t get reported —> people start denying the bad news even happened in the first place.

  12. @Dawn: They say ignorance is bliss.

    People would rather not hear/read bad news —> advertisers are unwilling to support bad news —> bad news doesn’t get reported —> people start denying the bad news even happened in the first place.

  13. What do I have to do to inform myself?
    A. Watch the news or B. listen to the 3000 scientists working for IPCC who got a nobel prize “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.
    Yep, we need independent scientists looking at important issues and we need bloggers to investigate on what’s happening to society, like Friedman http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/06/opinion/06friedman.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    Of course, these reports makes me feel powerless, insignificant, angry so -human logic- I watch the Olympics. Why? Because this empowers me while I’m sitting on my sofa. I supercharge myself WITHOUT feeling guilty. My server logs demonstrate you are the same way.

    So, unless you are The ONE, this poses a boring but valid question;
    How can we make sure our children inherit a clean green world? You can early adapt the right way for us by reporting on what’s happening in the real world,
    the friction between new technology and politics. Don’t you agree that it is a bloggers task to mobilize the needed social cohesion for change? Anyway! to paraphrase you: We get the bloggers we spend our attention on.

  14. What do I have to do to inform myself?
    A. Watch the news or B. listen to the 3000 scientists working for IPCC who got a nobel prize “for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change”.
    Yep, we need independent scientists looking at important issues and we need bloggers to investigate on what’s happening to society, like Friedman http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/06/opinion/06friedman.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

    Of course, these reports makes me feel powerless, insignificant, angry so -human logic- I watch the Olympics. Why? Because this empowers me while I’m sitting on my sofa. I supercharge myself WITHOUT feeling guilty. My server logs demonstrate you are the same way.

    So, unless you are The ONE, this poses a boring but valid question;
    How can we make sure our children inherit a clean green world? You can early adapt the right way for us by reporting on what’s happening in the real world,
    the friction between new technology and politics. Don’t you agree that it is a bloggers task to mobilize the needed social cohesion for change? Anyway! to paraphrase you: We get the bloggers we spend our attention on.

  15. Just about the entire planet comes together once every four years. Athletes spend near their whole life working for this achievement. And you don’t think that warrants major press coverage?

    Your point is well taken. Their is an imbalance. But let’s not undersell the significance of such a world event.

  16. Just about the entire planet comes together once every four years. Athletes spend near their whole life working for this achievement. And you don’t think that warrants major press coverage?

    Your point is well taken. Their is an imbalance. But let’s not undersell the significance of such a world event.

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