Howard Rosenberg and Charles Feldman spend so much time outlining the perils of the 24-hour news cycle in “No Time to Think” that they give short shrift to people’s hunger for information in times of great turmoil. Americans have been transfixed by the economy and presidential race for weeks, turning to cable TV and online sites the way earlier generations gathered around radios during World War II. We’re in a wired world now, with all the challenges and possibilities that implies, and there’s no going back.
The news cycle is changing so quickly, in fact, that much of what the veteran journos write about in this book seems old hat: The escalating pressure to be first, uneasy blurring between opinion and fact, and the transformation of daily scribes into wire reporters and video stars are all well established. If anything, news orgs have gone into even greater overdrive the past few weeks: CNN and the Wall Street Journal home page now prominently display Dow stock tickers that are constantly updated, allowing visitors to watch the market convulse in real time.
The authors describe the obvious drawbacks to heightened news exposure, and certainly, Internet sites and cable news stations blow minor events out of proportion. But recent weeks have shown how great the need for information about our rapidly changing world is; Americans, like the rest of the world, want to try and make sense of it all.
The media biz is trying to feed this demand, admittedly stumbling upon occasion, while it copes with its own sobering economic circumstances. At times like these, it seems besides the point to wring one’s hands at the “menace of the media speed,” as Rosenberg and Feldman call it.
The book has other problems: the faux blog from a blog convention is overlong and dated, and the extended Q&A between the authors would have worked better as a column or magazine article — as would the entire book for that matter.
Indeed, in their afterword, they acknowledge the challenge of “trying to stay ahead of a techno-driven avalanche of media happenings.”
“When planning the book,” they write, “we could not have predicted the swiftness of this transformation — a metamorphoses whose very catalyst is speed.”