Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Commentary - Media X: Life Story

Media X: Life Story
by Jack Feuer

I SEEM TO RECALL IT was warm for November in New Jersey, but I could be wrong. We were visiting another school in the next town. I was seated in the back of the room, not listening to the teacher, and trying to decide whether to join the weekly football game in Richie Ivanhoe's backyard after class. Suddenly, another teacher burst in, and both women began whispering to each other, eyes wide and faces ashen. They shooed everybody out of the building, and put us back on the bus. It wasn't until we returned to Ralph S. Maugham Elementary School and my mother picked me up, that I learned President Kennedy had been shot.

I seem to recall it was mild for September in L.A.,but I could be mistaken. I had just passed the Lankershim exit, heading south on the Hollywood Freeway. Universal Studios loomed on the hill. I was driving on automatic, not really hearing what they were saying on the radio, and trying to decide which source I could cajole into taking me to lunch at Rita Flora that afternoon.

Suddenly, the newscaster announced that what authorities thought might have been a small plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. "Schmuck," I thought. "How do you not see a 100-story skyscraper?" It wasn't until I arrived at Adweek's Wilshire Boulevard offices and turned on the TV in the editor's room that I learned America was under attack.

I was born into a mass-media world and live in a digital one. I have never lacked for options. But on the two most horrific days of my life, the only medium that really mattered was television.

Sure, I heard about Kennedy's assassination by what was, essentially, word of mouth. We kept the radio on every minute during those dark hours and devoured the newspapers. But it was television that we depended on, grieved before, and on which we first came face to face with Lee Harvey Oswald.

I saw that killer killed on television.

Yes, we scoured the Internet on 9/11. We surfed like madmen from site to site. We glued on our earpieces and kept our Walkmans tuned to the news stations. But it was television that we relied on, gathered before, and on which we first pondered the terrible cost of that awful morning.

I watched the country cry on television.

We are inundated with media choices that seduce us with entertainment, ply us with information, supply use with endless ways to push-pull, opt-in, interact and network. We call it a revolution. But it's not. The options are just choices. The channels are just toys. It doesn't matter if we're five, 15 or 75. When we are threatened, when the world goes mad, when we are desperate to connect, we don't log on to MySpace. We turn on the television.

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