Novelist Michael Crichton wrote an essay for Wired magazine about the media landscape:

“There has been evidence of impending extinction for a long time. We all know statistics about the decline in newspaper readers and network television viewers. The polls show increasingly negative public attitudes toward the press — and with good reason. … Large segments of the American population think the media is attentive to trivia, and indifferent to what really matters. They also believe that the media does not report the country’s problems, but instead is a part of them. Increasingly, people perceive no difference between the narcissistic self-serving reporters asking questions, and the narcissistic self-serving politicians who evade them.”

That all rings true today, as does this, later in the essay:

“Along with many other industries, the American media [produces] a product of very poor quality. Its information is not reliable, it has too much chrome and glitz, its doors rattle, it breaks down almost immediately, and it’s sold without warranty. It’s flashy but it’s basically junk. So people have begun to stop buying it. Poor product quality results, in part, from the American educational system, which graduates workers too poorly educated to generate high-quality information. In part, it is a problem of nearsighted management that encourages profits at the expense of quality. … and in large part, it is a failure to recognize the changing needs of the audience.”

The poorly educated reporters cited probably are well educated by many standards, just inclined to push an agenda “to make a difference.” But let’s not quibble; he’s on a roll. Next he cites individual entities as candidates for Jurassic Park:

“Who will be the next great American institution to find itself obsolete and outdated, while obstinately refusing to change? I suspect one answer would be The New York Times and the commercial networks.”

Mr. Crichton — a workaholic who enjoyed considerable success as an author, film director, screenwriter and TV producer — passed away in 2008 at the age of 66. Partly because of his success, some in the media liked to take potshots at the essay I cite, titled “Mediasaurus” and published in 1993. Slate magazine asked him about it in 2002 and he answered by e-mail: “I assume that nobody can predict the future well. But in this particular case, I doubt I’m wrong; it’s just too early.”

In novels, Mr. Crichton liked to pose lengthy questions, or a series of them, and reply with a single word. As homage, I’ll do the same:

Vindicated.

Advertisements