Gongol.com Archives: January 2024

Brian Gongol

January 31, 2024

News A bad month for media

In the course of just one month, 2024 has already taken a substantial number of casualties in the mass media. Commercial radio giant Audacy has filed for bankruptcy. Sports Illustrated appears to be in freefall. The Los Angeles Times is laying off 20% of its newsroom staff. And The Messenger, started with fanfare less than a year ago, is closing down abruptly. ■ The diagnosis isn't hard; advertising used to be a mass-market product, and now it is extremely targeted. People don't have to watch "Must-See TV" on the network's time -- they can watch today's must-see TV on-demand, and it even competes with yesterday's. "Frasier" now competes head-to-head with his past self. ■ It may not matter much if Sports Illustrated's place is taken by more opinion-driven outlets -- the scores will still be the same. But it does matter if current events of greater significance become captive to hardened partisanship. That isn't an inevitable outcome of current trends, but it's a real hazard. There will always be an incentive to reach mass audiences for political purposes, so there will always be some sort of funding available to sustain outlets that say the right things to satisfy the patrons. ■ Some models for truly community-supported journalism and public-interest media have started to emerge, but they aren't spreading fast enough and new ones aren't germinating quickly enough. The economics of mass media remain in real peril, and as some of the outlets are disrupted into oblivion, the reading, viewing, and listening habits of audiences will be forced to change. ■ They will find some outlets welcoming them with open arms -- often with ulterior motives. But habits, once changed, tend to harden all over again. And that could well mean that people will enter information silos and not come back out.

News Speaking up

The classic dichotomy between introverts and extroverts is familiar enough: Introverts need to recharge, mentally and emotionally, after time engaging with other people, while extroverts need that engagement in order to feel recharged. It explains a lot about people, but it's also often misidentified with other characteristics. ■ Perhaps the most common example is internal versus external processing. Some people manage all of their thoughts quite comfortably inside the space of their own heads. Others need to project their thinking into the physical environment around them, whether by talking to themselves, jotting notes on paper, piling books and magazines in particular places, or otherwise putting their thoughts into space. ■ The introvert who is a strongly expressed external processor could easily be mistaken for an extrovert, but some people simply need to talk in order to think. It's not a matter of whether anyone else is around to hear, but whether the thoughts travel outside the brain before being fully digested. Someone who talks your ear off but doesn't take the cues signaling your lack of interest? That's an introvert who needs to process externally; they might as well be talking to a cat or a tree. A true extrovert thrives on interaction and feedback. ■ Likewise, the extrovert who processes internally might look like a wallflower. But the libraries and coffee shops of the world are full of them, and they're reliable guests at every party. They may exhibit the old stereotype that "still waters run deep", but they can't abide loneliness -- they might not spill their every thought for others to pick up, but a nod, a smile, or a passing "hello" is like fuel for the tank. ■ Couple these characteristics with others, and it soon becomes evident how humans can be richly varied, even within a family. A meticulous extrovert who processes internally might have the most spotless desk in the open-floorplan office and leave work buzzing with energy. ■ But put an external processor in the same office, and the very act of having to hot-desk might drive them mad -- even if they're chronically extroverted. An external processor may need to organize their thoughts in the physical space around them, with things like papers, Post-It notes, sketches, or plan drawings. And if that space is first-come, first-served, they might never get a major long-term project done. ■ Meanwhile, they'll quite possibly drive that meticulous internal processor right up and down the wall. The conflict is nobody's fault, at least not intentionally, and yet the circumstances create an almost inevitable conclusion. ■ It's funny just how many decisions -- from how we're grouped in elementary school, to how workplaces are organized, to who has a social "pass" to judge others -- come down to personality characteristics over which we really have no control, and about which we often haven't really ever been formally educated. Accounting for those features would make lots of our human-built world run more smoothly.

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