Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Casual Press?

Among the other usual tidbits, in last Friday’s issue of the New York Times I found a particularly interesting article. The headline read, “Ballerinas, Famed for Silence, Take New Approach: Talking.” See

The New York City Ballet’s reasoning behind the new approach, which was met by some internal opposition—it would seem many world-class ballerinas are rather shy—was that spoken introductions by the performers would break down barriers and humanize the performers. Evidently, with audiences waning, the ballet company hoped to boost ticket sales by making the ballet a less formal experience.

It seems much of the world is leaning toward the informal side of life, and I can’t really blame it. Shorts and flip-flops are especially comfy, and dressing up requires effort. But is it right for the arts, journalism included, to follow the crowd?

Today, to be seen as high-brow is to not make a profit. The younger generation regards things like newspapers and evening news broadcasts as something their stuffy, out-dated parents did, while Facebook and Twitter are regarded as the way information circulates now. If it’s not online and accessible within a casual five-minute search, it’s not worth the fuss.

As I personally like to eat, I can see an argument for humanizing the news. Rapping weathermen and comedian-journalists make money. And we are taught to write the news with a more casual tone. Yet at the same time, as a journalist, I also see the need for the media to uphold society’s standards. If all that’s left of our culture is crude humor, what happens to artistic progress? We lose whole spectrums of thought.

We’ve spent a lot of time in many of my communications classes attempting to predict where the press will end up over the next several decades. This is normal, I suspect. Somehow speculating about our potentially dim future makes us feel better. But if I’ve learned anything in my somewhat limited experience as a writer of science-fiction and other speculative genres, I’ve learned attempting to predict the future is largely a waste of breath. We humans just aren’t very good at it.

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