The Breakfast Table

Our Global Backyard

Dear Margaret,

The point about institutions having weakened is really important, and it goes beyond the need to be recognized differently (i.e., as famous on television). It’s also why the media in general are now so important.

We don’t know almost anything firsthand anymore, the way prior generations did. News that affects us personally almost always comes from “media,”–that is, intermediaries whom we have to trust. To take an obvious example, years ago the economic news that most affected us might be local: Is a new factory opening up to hire people? Now the most important economic news might come from Asia. Or, to take another example, it used to be that some of the biggest news in town was about a local trial. Everyone gossipped about it, and lots of people trooped down to the courthouse to watch. The best argument I made for Court TV was that our “community” is now so expanded that trials that we cared about weren’t necessarily going on down the block where we could go watch.

So, at a time when people are more skeptical than ever about the media, they need them more. (Which is kind of why I started the magazine.)