The medium is the message…

David Shaw interviews former San Jose Mercury News Publisher Jay Harris who is among the legion of journalists wringing their hands over the state of our democracy and the media’s role in its impending demise. Such hand-wringing is a necessary critical function in journalism today. So, for the most part, I applaud such efforts.

My consternation, however, is with the failure of many hand-wringers to distinguish the roles of newspapers, television, radio, and the internet in our current political environment. Too often it seems such critics treat these media as equal–all just a part of this thing we call the news media. I would remind the hand-wringers to revisit McLuhan and Postman. A medium is not just a conduit for information; it is also a separate way of thinking about the world, e.g. the world looks like a far different place through the medium of print versus the medium of television. Another way to say it: We experience the world in very different ways through print, television, and radio. And the internet? We don’t know enough about it yet, although I am very encouraged by the possibilities it may provide for invigorating democratic participation. For another take on the Harris’ interview, check out MediaMinded (always a great read).