Media and Me

Until I was 14, my home had one TV, black and white, and it received four channels.  That year we got a color TV and by my senior year we had cable.  I remember seeing Oz in color for the first time during the annual “event” that was the broadcast of The Wizard of Oz.  Before cable brought us over a dozen channels, we got what we got.  Here in central PA, that typically meant WGAL.  Period.

Our media sources today are innumerable.  They pervade every aspect of our life and are with us at all times.  Has it changed the world or brought more of the world into focus?  The uprisings in the Middle East may not have happened without Twitter, Facebook and other social media giving people a platform from which to voice dissent.  Network and cable news channels reported on fighting, casualties, insurgents and atrocities.  But 15 months later, where is the news coverage from Egypt?  For that matter, when’s the last time you thought about the national impact of 2005’s big story, Hurricane Katrina?

I think media is just one tool in humanity’s toolbox.  How we use those tools will be our legacy, not the fact that we invented them or profited from them.  I might never have had that thought without social media access to the TED talks, especially the most recent by Bryan Stevenson or my all-time favorite by Ken Robinson about how schools are killing creativity.

I was enjoying some social media time last week and saw two postings that gave me pause.  One was by Steven Courtney, a local musician I greatly admire for his talent and commitment to making the world (especially a child’s world) a better, more positive place.  He quoted Hunter S. Thompson, father of “gonzo journalism” and also a favorite of mine.  Here’s the quote:  “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs.  There’s also a negative side.”  Maybe Steven was trying to be funny; he has a great sense of humor.  Or maybe he was having a bad day and reflecting on all the obstacles he has faced/is facing while just trying to use his talents to support his family.

The other posting was by visitPA.com on their Facebook page.  They mentioned that 3/20 was Fred Rogers’ birthday and that Mr. Rogers would have been 84.  He began his career in television when it was a new medium, the early 1960’s: the same time frame that today’s TV show Mad Men glamorizes.  Yes, this new technology was ripe for advertising and millions could be made by convincing people to consume certain products.  Fred Rogers instead decided to explore using television as a way to reach, entertain, educate and provide positive reinforcement to children.

So here I am: using social media to promote the music industry.  I pledge to use media and social networking tools to help people.  The irony, of course, is that I’m using social media to ask people to step away from their computers and go socialize at music and art events.  After all, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, won’t you be mine?”