"The Age of Missing Information." (Book by Bill McKibben; Television as Ineffective Conveyor of Information) (Editorial)

Editor & Publisher, May 30, 1992 | Go to article overview

"The Age of Missing Information." (Book by Bill McKibben; Television as Ineffective Conveyor of Information) (Editorial)


Bill McKibben has written a book with that title (Random House) in which he tries to answer the question: "Does having access to more information than ever mean that we know more than ever?"

His book is about an experiment May 3, 1990, in which he collected two thousand hours of videotape and then watched it all. He found that Fairfax, Va., had the largest cable system in the country--93 channels. With the help of almost 100 friends he videotaped 24 hours. It took him about six months of 10-hour days to watch it all and came to this conclusion:

"We believe that we live in the 'age of information,' that there has been an information 'explosion,' an information 'revolution.' In many important ways, just the opposite is true. We live at a moment of deep ignorance, when vital knowledge that humans have always possessed about who we are and where we live seems beyond our reach . . . . An age of missing information."

This is a sad commentary on the television industry's claim that most of the people get most of their information on what is going on in the world from television. McKibben's assertion is that people do not know, and they don't care, about their environment, for instance, because their main source of information is television.

McKibben's thesis is bolstered by the results of a yearlong study of Whittle Communications' Channel One, the advertising-supported television program to classrooms. Whittle financed the content analysis which was conducted by two independent researchers but did not include the advertising portion. …

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