As far back as I can remember, Time Magazine came to our house addressed to my dad once a week. That had to be the mid 1970’s. It was coming to the house for years before then. When I moved to Philadelphia for graduate school, I got my own subscription. That was 1991. It’s been with me ever since. Lansing, East Lansing, Farmington Hills, Detroit, Novi and back to Farmington Hills. Twenty-six years in all, not including my childhood when I had dibs on it after my dad.
A couple of weeks ago, I received the issue below with addition of the wrap announcing that “This could be your LAST ISSUE.” I had been ignoring successive renewal mailings for months. Why? I barely pick my Time Magazine up anymore. By the time I get the weekly publication, several news cycles have already come and gone. The Time writers are sprinkled throughout cable news television. They blog. They tweet. By the time they type their last letter for each week’s Time Magazine, their analysis is already outdated.
The news cycle has been evolving for years, even decades. But social media has completely upended the way most Americans get their information. The dawn of the Trump era and his presidential Tweets have accelerated this trend in ways we could not have imagined. Trump’s tweets have the ability to change the topic of discussion in a matter of minutes. This is not just going around the traditional media. That’s been going on for decades. Even President Reagan reduced news conferences and preferred direct addresses to the American people.
What Trump is doing is controlling the news cycle. He has accomplished this by successfully expanding the bounds of what is considered news worthy. He has made the outrageous, normal; the politically incorrect, acceptable; the obscene, unremarkable. Trump has achieved what former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once ominously warned about: the notion of “defining deviancy down.” As standards and expectations fall, this new, lower level eventually becomes normal.
Hence, while social media has exploded and redefined the way news is gathered, and disseminated, so too has public discourse declined. In the process, the traditional news outlets have been devastated. Combine these facts with the decline of print media, and my history with Time Magazine, regrettably, is near the end.
While all good things do often come to an end, this situation presents a conundrum. How does one gather information on current events in this day and age? There is no one answer and no good answer. One could take the Trump approach which simply makes the news his enemy; unless of course its good news for him, in which case, it’s okay. In other words, just make the news yourself, the way you want it to be.
Another idea is to just forget about it. Life is busy enough without the news. One could confine news content to life and death matters only. These days that might include the weather or threats from North Korea. I think this option seems to be in vogue. Today, nobody talks about the news much for fear of offending people and, frankly, because it is perceived not to matter. Being informed is less important than we were probably taught. There are forces larger than the idea of the informed citizen that will fix things eventually.
I hope this is not the case. But as I contemplate letting my Time Magazine subscription expire for the first time in a quarter century, I keep wondering if it’s about Time?
Michael Sarafa is Co-publisher of the Chaldean News.