I want to draw everyone’s attention to an amazing speech on the marvels of the modern Information Age by Stephen T. Gray, managing publisher of The Christian Science Monitor. Speaking to the graduating seniors of Michigan-based Adrian College, Gray argues that, compared to past generations, today’s youngsters are blessed to live in a world of information abundance. “The media saturate your lives far more than any previous generation,” he noted. “Today’s information environment [is] omnipresent, like the air we breathe.” “In this era of innovations and breakthroughs, you’ll be able to explore more options than the most privileged members of past generations.”
That is absolutely correct. As I argue in my new book Media Myths: Making Sense of the Debate over Media Ownership, to the extent there has ever been a “Golden Age” of media and information, we are living it today. Media critics like to whine about the supposed lack choices and competition in our modern media environment, but nothing could be further from the truth. Here’s a nice excerpt from Gray’s speech proving this point:
“To see how the information environment has changed, look at Adrian [Michigan] in my grandfather’s day, when people got new information from just a few sources: a daily newspaper, word of mouth, letters, books, and an occasional national magazine or mail-order catalog. That’s it: No radio, TV, cable, Internet, or cellphones – even telephones were new. You got hardly any new information in a day–and, so, life barely changed for decades. Most people had one job all of their lives, lived in one town, had one spouse. In Adrian today, there’s still one daily newspaper, but there are 25 or 30 radio stations and hundreds of TV channels via cable or satellite. Everybody has cellphones. And you can jump onto the Internet–broadband, of course–and instantly search the largest aggregation of information humanity has ever known. And more is on the way. Digital TV broadcasting is coming soon, allowing up to seven or eight times as many channels. Satellite radio is here, and digital radio soon may quintuple the number of stations. Websites multiply with no limit. And there’ll be more. With so much more information–so many more choices–change will come faster. Add the rest of the world and it’s even more dramatic.”
Grey also addresses the myth that somehow all these new information outlets are controlled by the same corporate masters:
“When the information sources were few… only a few people owned them, and they decided what you would receive. Today there are plenty of big media owners, but there are so many information sources that they control just a tiny share of the flow. Then who holds the controls? You do–at the receiving end. You decide what you want to know, and you go get it. And nobody can stop you. This individual power is unprecedented.”
I encourage you to read the entire speech, which can be found on the Christian Science Monitor website here. It perfectly captures the spirit of the amazing times in which we live.