Amateur Hour

Once long ago, I was watching boxing on TV. Both boxers had impressive records – 9-1 and 5-0. And I wondered, “How come you never see boxers with records like 1-9 and 0-5?”

Then I realized boxers with losing records don’t last long. They move on and get different jobs. If nothing else, these dabblers provide useful punching bags for the emerging professionals. No one pays to see the losers.

This was not a profound revelation. But I’m reminded of it when I see the state of journalism and modern media. Media professionals, the few who used to control the information pipeline, are being eaten alive by the unpaid amateurs. Newspapers’ weekday circulation fell 8.7 percent in the past six months. Newspaper circulation is at its lowest level in seven decades.

To go back to the boxing analogy, back in the day Mike Tyson could level any number of tomato cans in a one-on-one fight. But pit him against 1,000 amateur clowns in the ring at once and he wouldn’t stand a chance.

In modern media, the amateurs have taken over. And you don’t have to look far to see the resulting lack of quality. When I troll blog sites, the number of written errors and mistakes makes me despair for the state of American intelligence. Yeah, I’m a snob, but I feel safe saying 90% of the writing on blogs is 100% trash. Is it too much to ask that bloggers revise their work just once before unleashing their thoughts on the world? Writers revise, that’s what they do, and good writing is hard work.

Unfortunately, quality cannot keep pace with quantity. When you remove the filter, shouters and other idiots always outnumber the thoughtful and well-spoken. If you don’t believe me, peruse the comments left on YouTube videos. We are, as Neil Postman ominously predicted, close to collapsing into a sea of self-absorbed triviality. A world where news consists of celebrity gossip, the latest pandemic scare, and stories about products that will improve our lives.

What is real news? I’d argue real news is information that someone powerful does not want to be shown to the public.

Samuel Johnson once said “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” When we take out the financial motive for writing, all we get are the blockheads.