Thursday, July 5, 2012

Faster than Instant

Did you enjoy the additional time this week?  On Saturday international timekeepers added one second to the universal time clock moving from June 30 into July 1.  We seem to need all the additional time we can get.  The “information age” we live in has reached a point where receiving information quickly has sped up to the point where experiencing events in real time seems to take too long.

Last week’s ruling by the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) was misreported by the two major news organizations – Fox and CNN.  President Obama, in fact, thought he had ‘lost’ because he was relying on the cable networks for information.  Members of Congress even began releasing statements based on the false reporting. 






Within minutes both networks updated the initial reporting, which actually had an element of truth to it, but no context.  It is a 197-page dense split opinion that covers four separate cases.  The Court allocated the most number of days for oral arguments in its recent history to hear testimony.  The final judgment was released in the last hours of the last day of a busy session with lots of high profile cases.  Reporters and analysts were then expected to read, digest and report within minutes of the release of the paper documents, since the court doesn’t provide electronic releasing or press friendly summaries.
Certainly there’s an argument that the Court needs to catch up with the times.  In today’s age of  technology when cameras fit into pens and watches – having the proceedings of the nation’s highest court recorded should be an easy, non-invasive process.  It’s been rejected year after year.
Perhaps the more compelling question is why we need to get the information so quickly?  The Court’s decision on the constitutionality of the Obama Administration’s signature domestic program that will impact each American certainly justifies the interest and scope of coverage.  It has short and long term political and economic policy impact.  All the more reason to spend the time to get it right.  The initial reporting came 8 minutes after the opinion was released.  480 seconds.  Evelyn Wood’s speed reading courses aren’t that effective.

There’s not much of an uproar amongst the general public about the misreporting.  Media critic Howard Kurtz is properly agitated and did some excellent analysis on his show.     I blame Bill Gates.  Not personally, of course, but in concept.  Microsoft had a track record in the 1990’s (and beyond?) for releasing products that weren’t ready --- they crashed, didn’t work and often caused a myriad of other problems.  The Microsoft products were innovative and cool and when they worked (which was more often than when they didn’t) it was so much better than anything before, the problems became tolerable.  Steve Jobs’ Apple became a bit of an antidote for that with their products largely working.  Since his passing, though, the company has released Siri which has not fulfilled the founders promise. 
Americans no longer expect excellence or accuracy.  The benefit of technology and getting information fast is perceived as more valuable than getting it right.  As much as I love having the pulse of the world at my fingertips, I appear to be in the minority in wanting precise and truthful information as a baseline expectation.  Whoa, that's a pretty quick judment, maybe I need a leap minute or two to be sure.

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