I used to watch Ted Koppel on Nightline. I liked his cool seriousness. He rarely cracked a smile as I recall. I particularly liked when he dropped a few advanced SAT words – George Will and William F. Buckley, Jr. also enjoyed flaunting their vocabularies, delighting in the fact that large numbers of the listening public had no idea what the words meant. Sometimes I thought it would be a hoot for the shows they appeared on to subtitle them when they spoke giving the simplified version of their messages. You know, Analysis for Dummies.
Howard Kurtz of CNN’s Reliable Source interviewed Koppel last week. For a man in his 80’s he looked good – relaxed and in good spirits. He did say something that perplexed me though, and I didn’t expect it. He basically spoke out against social media, saying it essentially trivializes the news and diverts our attention away from substantive discussion. He did acknowledge the impact of Twitter on the recent revolutions in Egypt and elsewhere, but he tried to make the point that our collective attention spans moves on to the next 140 character post which might be some shallow personal update about what we are doing right now.
I think Koppel misunderstands social media. He made it sound as if he himself had never used the tools. If he had, he would know that there is plenty of substantive discussion going on all over social media. Facebook, Twitter, blogs are a new form of democracy where people are engaging the issues of the day in real time. Practically gone are the days when folks would read a newspaper and mail in a letter to the editor. Now, post a comment and await moderation.
I’d like to see Koppel use Twitter. If I were a kid, I’d follow Koppel’s posts just to study for the SAT or ACT. Ted, you sound like you miss the excitement of the news cycle and traveling from place to place reporting on events of the day. Traveling may be too much of a grind, so why not start a blog, have some fun with Twitter – engage us with 140 character bits of old school insight.