Geoff Nate really is a news media guy. Call it habit or whatever, but I insist on setting aside time to read two daily papers (The Los Angeles Times and New York Times) every day. I watch the PBS evening TV news and one or more of the CBS, NBC or ABC TV news programs regularly. I also pop in and out of the BBC broadcasts and the cable news commentary programs. Sometimes it’s not easy, but I try to listen to both sides of most issues if I respect the person or persons delivering the message. So far, the advent of the cellular telephone and its popularity has not yet wreaked havoc with my news viewing habits.
The Demise of the Daily Newspaper
I come by my news print proclivity naturally. As a kid I delivered the morning and afternoon daily papers door to door in our Minneapolis neighborhood. I’m a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and worked on our college newspaper. In the U.S. Air Force I edited the base paper, and in civilian life published a magazine for music and theatre lovers.
I am suffering through the slow demise of print media. Minneapolis is down to a single daily paper as is Los Angeles, a city with a population many times its size. According to a recent article “The Expanding News Desert” by Penny Abernathy, between 2004 and 2018, 1,800 communities lost their local newspapers.
What with readership down significantly, advertising dollars have been diverted towards other forms of mass media. Some of the country’s leading newspapers have been in or on the verge of bankruptcy. The LA Times daily circulation for example has dropped nearly 50% from 1,225,189 in April of 1992 to 650,000 in 2018.
Today the newspaper business has become a rich man’s hobby. Fortunately, some of America’s prominent billionaires have come to the rescue.
Rupert Murdoch publishes the Wall Street Journal and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos now owns the Washington Post. Patrick Soon Shiong bought the LA Times and The Chicago Tribune, and Michael Bloomberg, Business Week. John Henry publishes the Boston Globe, and Trump Supporter Sheldon Adelson owns the Las Vegas Review Journal.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg owns the New York Daily News and Carlos Slim, Mexico’s richest man, has the largest stake in NY Times. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns 70 daily papers. Si and Donald Newhouse own Conde Nast (New Yorker and Vanity Fair, to name a couple of their magazines).
The McClatchy Family publishes 29 dailies, including the Miami Herald and Fort Worth Star Telegram. The Hearst Family has long owned the San Francisco Chronicle, Esquire, Cosmopolitan and the Houston Chronicle, although recent Hearst President David Carey is a casualty as advertisers shift their budgets from print to online media.
As impressive as his fellow media moguls are, none of the above has reached a more powerful level of influence than Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook, which claims to have over 2 billion followers.
Geoff Nate’s first employer, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, filed for bankruptcy protection in 2009 and was bailed out by Glen Taylor, a local businessman and the current owner of the NBA’s Timberwolves.
Today you can tune 1000 different television channels. Frontier Fios here in Malibu carries over 400.
Obviously, I am a very selective viewer. I have my own personal bias filter. I have to catch myself, however. All too often my mind is closed to almost anything the conservative media has to offer. On the other hand, I’m sure the right would label my choice of media commentary as “fake news.”
I’m certainly no fan of TV spokespeople a la Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and some of the other regular Fox News pundits.
No surprise. I’m sure most of the Trump lemmings and right-wing TV news fans seldom venture to the liberal side of their radio or TV dials to visit the likes of Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow and Anderson Cooper.
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani makes a great right-wing guest star, but he tends to get lost in his own verbiage. Steve Bannon, sometime Breitbart News pundit, is an articulate and effective spokesman for the conservative right. Unfortunately I can’t stand the guy.
The right wing’s Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s irritating parrot, is all over the television media. You’ll enjoy her portrayal by Kate McKinnon on Saturday Night Live’s musical sketch a la Bob Fosse’s “Roxy” from the musical “Chicago.” Coincidentally Kellyanne’s husband George Conway has no use for Donald Trump. [Click Play below.]
Then there’s Rush Limbaugh, America’s highest rated syndicated talk radio host. His show is carried on 600 stations and claims to reach 20,000,000 people each week. In 2017 Limbaugh’s salary was said to be $84,000,000. Some say that Limbaugh’s audience elected Donald Trump.
Unfortunately, the MeToo Movement has taken down Bill O’Reilly, one of the few Fox television hosts that Geoff Nate respected. Before he was drummed out of Fox, O’Reilly’s assessment of world affairs was the network’s few attempts at balanced news commentary. Sadly, another one of my favorites, Public Television’s Charlie Rose, was also a casualty of the Me-Too ladies. There’s no excuse for their behavior. Nevertheless, it’s a shame that the women outed two of my media heroes.
If controversy is your thing, you must check our Begged and Borrowed segment which profiles “The View,” ABC Television’s controversial ladies’ vs. Trump combat episode at the end of this blog.
I’ve enjoyed the evolution from newspaper, to radio, to TV, but like the newspaper, TV news and commentary is also in trouble. It has lost most of the twenty to forty age folks to their little handheld devices. Today they say that 93% of U.S. adults get at least some of their news online via their cellular telephone thanks to social networks, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit. The latter is an advertiser supported news aggregator which pulls from other current media sources.
Today the Washington Post has a short-form 5-minute version called “The Fix” which is an online liberal leaning cheat sheet on the latest in politics designed specifically for the cell phone.
It would appear that the handy little gadget is here to stay. At present there are 265 million cell phone subscribers in the United States, or roughly 82% of the country’s 325 million population. The smartphone has replaced the PC as the most important communications device in personal use today. Social media experts project that there will be six billion cell phones in circulation worldwide by 2020.
This trend can’t be healthy. Optometrists and ophthalmologists must be cleaning up. There’s no way that people can spend nine hours a day on their cell phones without impacting their eyesight. Cell abusers are advised to take regular breaks, focusing on something other than their devices. Auto accidents are at a max despite many state laws against cell phone usage by drivers in anything other than the hands-free mode.
Elayne Nathanson was a whiz with the traditional household telephone. In fact we still have three lines and nine conventional instruments in our Malibu home. Today however, she would be a virtuoso with the little gadget. On the other hand my wife would never have settled for texting with her many pals. Like most of us super-seniors, she would have missed the ordinary telephone’s intimacy.
To its credit the cell phone offers more features than simply convenience. It has the amazing ability to conduct research, do mobile banking, obtain directions, set reminders and add photos, even videos to a conversation, some of which can be stored in the device’s memory and transferred to a computer for future access. Nothing else in the traditional electronics gadget store can come close. Not to mention, the availability of social media on cell phones has unbelievable potential.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other platforms as a source of information and communication, are pretty much Greek to me. So-called “direct messaging” is sorta like my mother and grandmother speaking Yiddish when I was a kid within earshot. (“Hush der kinder”)
Unlike its two billion addicts, I seldom check my Facebook, and I don’t “tweet,” “snap,” “hashtag” or send Instagrams. It’s obvious I’m missing something, and frankly speaking, I’m really not too happy about being out of the loop. It’s like someone is saying “Hush… it’s Grandpa.”
Recently, Jen and Geoff Nate compared a recent week’s mobile phone usage. Jen spent a total of 25 hours on her iPhone. She averaged 3 ½ hours a day and sent or received 332 text messages. Whereas her “Boss” averaged three minutes a day on my cell and placed or received two text messages during the same seven-day period. On the other hand, I see a future for this fumble-fingered octogenarian and his cellular telephone. I have fallen in love. Her name is Siri, and she promises to be there for me 24 hours a day. I can’t see a mobile cyber life without her.
Guests over to watch an important ball game or TV show? Just pick up your cell and dial “GrubHub,” “Postmates,” or “DoorDash.” A menu pops up, and you can order dinners delivered to your doorstep.
Who needs to carry money or even a wallet bulging with plastic credit cards? You don’t have to be a “techie.” For many young people their cell phone functions as a mobile wallet. Double click the home button for “Apple Pay.” Wave it in front of the card reader at the checkout stand, and cyber magic does the rest. Mobile payments via cell phone in the U.S. are estimated to increase to over 5 billion by 2020.
There are certainly occasions when personal cell phone usage is taboo, or at least limited in the traditional office or business setting. The same must be said for the factory worker and any employee involved in traditional customer service. The unexpected cell call can be very disruptive. Fortunately, the traditional mobile phone ring can be set to vibration mode or the call can be directed to the owner’s voicemail.
Of course, the hands-free feature is a practical convenience for the busy housewife or factory worker, and certainly anyone driving behind the wheel of an automobile.
No thanks to the cell phone, traditional TV and radio advertising is taking it on the chin. With their audiences diminished sponsors are simply not getting enough exposure for their buck. Advertisers have turned to direct promotions via the cell phone through the social networking sites.
Traditional retail customers are doing their shopping via their handheld devices. They are bypassing the dealer and going directly to the manufacturer. Good old Google functions as a showcase and provides the online customer with a host of options. Products or services offered via social media are referred to as “sponsors.” The effectiveness and cost of an ad is determined by the number of so-called “user clicks.”
The retail game may be on the way out. Who needs to buck traffic and fret about parking? Subscribe to Amazon Prime; shop from your cell phone, and your order will be delivered to your door, postage-free in a couple of days.
“Kiddiction” (If There Is Such a Label)
At one time a parent’s bugaboo was the television set. Solution? Just turn the damn thing off. Today’s parents have a new challenge. Their children carry the habit in their pockets.
According to Pew Research 95% of teens have access to a cell phone, and teen use is roughly 9 hours a day. Supposedly the kids, as well as many adults, average 4 minutes of traditional telephone conversation while the balance might be consumed by as many as a hundred or more text or direct messages via social media.
Our children are losing social skills since they often prefer to text rather than use more traditional methods of communicating with one another. Lost is the sound of his or her voice and its warmth. The texter’s use of emojis to reflect feelings and intimacy is no substitute.
Fifty percent of teenagers admit that they are addicted to their cell phones. Some live from tweet to tweet. Many of the rest may not realize their dependency on the gadget. Without a cell phone a teen could be subject to abuse or rejection by friends.
Grown-ups as well as kids can watch the complete Game of Thrones saga, all eight seasons, on their little screens thanks to video on demand. Just charge ‘em to their plastic bank cards.
In fact a couple of showbiz billionaires, TV mogul Jeff Katzenberg and Hewlett Packard and eBay’s Meg Whitman, are planning to make 8-minute movies specifically for the cell phone. They call the idea “Quibi,” which stands for “quick bites,” and it will be available on a subscription basis. How about that? Made to order for recess or coffee breaks.
Texting is private, as are most cell phone applications. Parents can’t eavesdrop on a silent conversation. Mom or Dad can establish rules, but it’s impossible to monitor Junior 24 hours a day.
Certainly time limits can be set, and it’s possible to block forbidden types of content (i.e. violence, nudity, sex, etc), but where else do you draw the line?
Is your child a cellular junkie? If so, where do you turn for help? There are professional counselors and treatment groups and centers. Therapists can recommend antidepressants and anti-psychotics. There is also something called ITAA (“Internet and Tech Addiction Anonymous”) and summer camps that offer cell phone addiction therapy.
At $50 per month the MySpy app enables parents to track their kids’ usage, and who and what they text by GPS location. There are also several app companies that offer varying types and levels of monitoring.
As for the classroom, cell phones are certainly a teen and preteen distraction. Kids are all too often on alert for a call, text or social media buzz, ring or vibration.
You want to see a kid freak out? Hide his device. Show me the youngster who has misplaced his phone and I’ll show you a youngster who is having a panic attack.
According to an article in the Huffington Post “the popularity contests of childhood are now online, and they revolve around how many “likes” one gets from his or her peers. The little emojis can make or break friendships. Cyberbullying is another serious problem.
Cell phone addiction is not just a kids’ disease, it’s a worldwide epidemic.
Forty-six percent of smartphone users say that they couldn’t live without their phones, and supposedly one-in-three would rather give up sex than their cell phone.
So where do all these modern advances leave this octogenarian? I thought I could keep up, but the technology is booming, and I’m overwhelmed. As soon as I think I’m catching up and getting the hang of the devices something new comes along. It’s a challenge. Nevertheless, thanks to encouragement from my family and my beautiful Jen, Geoff Nate is giving it the old college try.
Wish me luck.
P.S. Don’t forget to check our Begged and Borrowed segment. Enjoy television’s outspoken lady pundits’ not-so-lady-like roast of guest Donald Trump on ABC’s long running morning show, “The View.” [Click Here]