Thursday, April 28, 2011

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine"

It used to be that word of mouth was the only way to learn about current events.  Even today, we often hear about people and events in the world from another person, i.e., the Grapevine.  Your friend can't wait to tell you who just had a baby.  Your spouse wants to rant about the most recent political scandal.  Your boss tells you how the latest legislation will affect the business.  Word of mouth.  This tried and true method of keeping up with things on the personal, local, national, and global levels has been around since the dawn of time.  The trouble is that word of mouth is not always reliable.  It may even be flat out wrong.

Today, word of mouth, or "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" is no longer the method of choice for most of us.  There are too many alternative ways to keep up to date.  TV, Newspapers, Internet that can be accessed through any number of handy little gadgets to make sure everyone knows everything about everything instantly!  I have lots of issues with the whole concept of instant information, but that (believe it or not) isn't what I want to write about here.

Keeping in line with my general belief that the "old ways" were better most of the time, I still hang on to reading about the "news" and receiving my information in the form of the written word.  Therefore, it will come as no surprise that I love receiving magazines and newsletters in the mail!!  In fact, other than bills and advertising, about the only mail we get are magazines (mostly the home and garden variety), newsletters, and books!

May I just say, that like everything else, news magazines ain't what they used to be!  If you can remember LOOK, LIFE, The Saturday Evening Post, and so many others, you know what I mean.   Magazines and the publishing trade in general have suffered and struggled from competition with the instant news of broadcasting and the access to information in the on-line world.  In fact, the three magazines I mentioned stopped publishing years ago, mostly due to being obsolete because of television, satellite news, etc., etc.  Other magazines and publications have either gone out of business or radically changed their size, format, and content.

I remember my parents receiving Time for years when I was growing up.  It was a perfect addition to news reporting on TV.  The articles would provide much more in-depth information about the news of the week.  It was interesting to read and wasn't too obviously slanted by the views of the publisher.  It was an arm of journalism and a free press and it was a trusted source of information.  I used to read it from cover to cover (except for stuff about sports!)

As I've mentioned I no longer watch TV, and that includes the news!  My computer gives me access to news feeds from Associated Press, UPI, and the major networks.  I keep up in that way.  About a year or so ago I realized I was really missing a lot that way.  So I decided that I would subscribe to Time again to give me a broader understanding of world events. 

It  sure isn't the same magazine anymore!  Firstly, each issue is about half the size the magazine used to be.  Secondly, the "articles" for the most part consist of short little blurbs of no more than three or four paragraphs.  The only thing in-depth are the editorials and opinion columns.  And sometimes bias practically drips from them.  It has become little more than printed "sound-bites" of information.  It's the sort of writing one would aim at children with short attention spans!  It is disappointing, to say the least.  Henry Luce, the original Owner and Publisher of  Time, Inc., wouldn't recognize it; nor would he believe it!

One of the first publications to catch the public's eye was People.  It's debut back in the 70s (???) was groundbreaking.  It's my impression that People was the first to use that "sound-bite" approach to it's content.  The main content was the photographs of famous people.  It became the standard for a lot of magazines about the entertainment industry and celebrities, in general. 

Time and others were greatly impacted by People's success.  I believe that was probably the beginning of the changes in Time.  I occasionally read People.  I enjoy seeing the information about a celebrity's life and their individual style.  I like seeing the gorgeous gowns worn for the awards ceremonies.  Even though I don't have any idea who most of the current actors and singers are or what they are doing that makes them a celebrity, it is really immaterial to my interest!  And that's OK, People isn't meant to provide any in-depth or analytical information, it's more along the lines of a "gossip sheet" (but with more reliability  than the tabloids) and little tidbits of information on the "stars" are about all any of us can stand!

Within the past month or so both Time and People had "The 100 Most (something)" lists.  People's was "The 100 Most Beautiful People in the World"; Time's was "The 100 Most Influential People in the World".   Of the so-called most Beautiful, I actually recognized a goodly number of them....mostly because their photos show up week after week in People!

Of Time's so-called Most Influential, I recognized only 25.  Well, that's just down-right embarrasing!  75 of the most influential people in the world I had never heard of??!  I haven't been living in a cave.  I read Time every week and the news feeds every day!  Plus I still get input from the "Grapevine".  If they are so influential, why haven't I heard of them??

It set me to thinking that People is very successful at what they do, I recognized a lot of those 100 faces and had a vague understanding of what was their claim to fame because of People magazine.  On the other hand, Time must not have provided much information about those 75 unknowns before including them on the list, otherwise I would have known more of them! 

I admit that the fault may be mine.  If I didn't rely on so few sources of the "news" I might have encountered those names enough times before to remember them.  Still, I can't help but think that Time hasn't held up their end of the bargain with their readers!  Sound-bites just don't cut it when it comes to the things and people who have the potential to change the world! 

So I think I can honestly say People?  A+!   Time?   FAIL!   I guess "I Heard It on the Grapevine" was at least as good!  Maybe I should give U.S. News and World Report a try!

(Oh, by the way, in case you were wondering, my name wasn't on either list!  And I'm pretty sure, neither was yours.  Darn!)

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