Richard Wiens, The Triplicate

Sometimes, all you have to do is log on to the Internet for instant inspiration.

A "home page" always pops up first, and most varieties are designed to give you a quick survey of current information - news, sports, entertainment, a weather forecast, etc. Mine happens to be at, where the top headline is usually something like, "Jay Leno says he hasn't spoken to Conan O'Brien."

Like I said, instant inspiration, in this case to ponder the question: Where is America headed when it comes to getting its news?

Newspapers across the country have downsized if they haven't shut

down altogether. What used to be the "big 3" TV networks still air

their half-hour nightly news shows, but they've mostly ceded the field

of broadcast "journalism" to 24-hour cable news providers that

substitute talking heads for actual reporting.

Two of the cable conglomerates have taken to presenting the news as

if it's pro wrestling, full of easily identifiable good guys and bad

guys. Fox started this with its eternally ironic "fair and balanced"

shtick that should actually be called something like GOP-TV. MSNBC now

clearly fancies itself the liberal alternative, with a nightly assist

from Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report."

And speaking of advocacy disguised as actual news reporting and

analysis, how about that new talk show lineup on the local radio

station of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity?

Fair and balanced.

If it's preaching to the choir you're looking for, there are plenty

more subtle ways these days to get your "news" seasoned to your taste.

Log on to that aforementioned Internet, fire up the keyword searches

and let your browser carry you away to the safe haven of information

sites and blogs that slice and dice the facts just to your liking.

It's not so much that we have too many choices as that so many of

those choices are flawed by a predilection to persuade as well as

inform. Heck, most of them don't even have the resources to do their

own reporting - the enterprises doing that are the ones struggling to


Say what you will about the good old days of the monopolistic mass

media. At least when we were all reading the same papers and watching

the same TV news programs we had a common agenda of public issues to be

dealt with.

Information is more accessible than ever. That's great if you think

of life as a game of Trivial Pursuit with all the answers at your

fingertips. Or if you just want to immerse yourself in the opinions of

like-minded people. Or if you actually want to know why "Jay Leno says

he hasn't spoken to Conan O'Brien."

Of course you can also use your Web browser to access legitimate

news sources of organizations that are still striving to report stories

and present all sides of an issue in an unbiased manner - at least for

now. Most of them are free on-line, which is why they're having a hard

time staying in business.

Where is America headed when it comes to getting its news? That

depends on what you consider "news." The definition seems to evolve