I have long argued that our national commonalities, which are very important, are dwindling.
Over time I have lamented over the way we receive our news. I have long argued that this nation no longer starts at the same foundation when talking about current events. As a teenager it was Walter Cronkite who reported the news stories that impacted our lives. He reported the headlines of the day, and stressed that to get a deeper understanding one should turn to their morning newspapers.
As an adult it is very clear as to why ‘Uncle Walter’ mattered so much. He allowed for a sense of commonality to guide us as to what the basic facts were to the news events that made up our world. While today there are amazing sources for news and information it is also a fact that we are not always wise news consumers. And many do not start our with the basic facts surrounding a story.
Today I read an article in the Washington Post which underscored another way in which we no longer have a common point of reference–television entertainment. As a boy if you mentioned Saturday night it meant Mary Tyler Moore followed with Bob Newhart and rounding off the evening a laugh-a-thon with Carol Burnett. Now there are no such national points of connection when it comes to television. While watching the Golden Globes on Sunday I noted how many television shows I had never even heard of, let alone ever watched.
“Now, there’s much more television in terms of the sheer number of shows being produced and the total number of episodes of television being aired each year. The phenomenon actually has a name, Peak TV. So, we’re all still watching lot of television, we’re just not necessarily watching the same things, and we’re not watching them on the same schedules. As a result, we have fewer shared references and fewer simultaneous shared experiences. Sometimes that fragmentation happens along class lines, but even people who do have cable packages or Netflix subscriptions have so many options that we aren’t necessarily developing a shared cultural language. Like a lot of things in American life right now, our television consumption is about class, but it’s about plenty of other factors as well. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t worry about our collective spinning apart, just that we should be aware of how multi-faceted it really is.”