McAdams On: The Rubber Sieve

HERE AND NOW: I might have read something a while back about how the Internet is affecting our ability to think. I might have, but I’m not sure, and I can’t remember what terms to Google to find what I think I may have read. I did locate an article asserting the Internet has shortened attention spans, but there was a most-viewed headline nearby about Tony Blair that included the word “sex,” the Internet equivalent of a train wreck. So I checked it out.

The story was actually about the unfortunate prose of his autobiography, so I went back to the original article about shortened attention spans, but it was too long so I didn’t read it. Plus, there was only one picture, and just then some e-mails came in so I had to see what those were about. Seems the FCC had empowered consumers to avoid bill shock, scheduled a spectrum forum and unleashed video innovation and consumer choice. All before noon. I would have been impressed except that Gannett’s revenues were up, NBC’s profit was down, the Chilean miners’ rescue was a lucrative TV event and cellphone touch screens were germ farms, according to the minutely headline feeds I monitor. Doing so is a bit like sitting on a red ant hill reading Proust. Let’s just assume the French novelist would not hold one entirely rapt.

I was once an AP Wire editor. I read everything that came over the Wire and pulled out the big stuff for the newspaper. It was the linear editing of print content. I actually knew stuff, like the names of every Cabinet member and how to spell “Hosni Mubarak.” I knew these things without Googling them

Now, I have at least six or seven information streams coming at me simultaneously while I’m attempting to construe a 90-page FCC decree into a 500-word compendium that is at least marginally informative and doesn’t read like a monkey wrote it. Then I shoehorn it through a chthonic Web-posting interface along with six or seven other dispatches likewise composed with one eye on the ever-flowing information stream, then field remarks from individuals happy to point out my typos. All before noon, or thereabouts. And so it is that I can no longer remember anything without writing it down. Age, you say? Cheese and wine, I reply. OK, sure, mileage may be some of it, but let’s be real. Sprinters don’t build the neural-synaptic pathways for running marathons. What was I saying? Oh, yeah...

So I have written more than 1,000 news items and other such marginally informative compendia this year. The subjects of which range from free TV, pay TV, Internet TV, 3DTV, Mobile DTV, DirecTV, Hispanic TV, FLO TV, Google TV, full-power TV, LPTV, Apple TV, public TV, MobiTV, spot TV and local HD to TV transmitters, retransmission, iPads, the Kentucky Derby, MPEGIF, finance, dialnorm, Android, acquisitions, FCC action, FCC inaction, FIFA, Fox, Fitch, Fisher, spectrum, copper thieves, Technicolor, Comcast, Toyota and TiVo. Among others. I know this because I kept a list.

I kept a list because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t remember what I’ve written and I’d write the same stuff over and over unintentionally instead of intentionally. Reporters generally write the same stuff over and over intentionally because stories need to be periodically updated, and thus to explain what is being updated. Among the few things I have retained is the myriad ways I’ve described “white spaces.” E.g., fallow airwaves, unoccupied TV spectrum, taboo channels, etc. Mostly because one doesn’t get to use “taboo” that often.

There may have been a point to this when I started but now I can’t remember what it was and the SNL Kagan mid-day summary just arrived plus the NAB Smartbrief, and “30 Rock” scored a season high and Jeff Zucker hopes the Comcast deal is done before the end of the year and why does he care because isn’t he out anyway. My word, Wikipedia says he’s younger than me. He should really work out...