In an ideal world, media professionals would understand their responsibility to use the tools at their disposal to inform their readers rather than perpetually compete for their distracted and confused attention. But the economic incentives created by the professional media world tend to work in exactly the opposite way.Yes, much of the Internet is free. But it takes time and energy to develop the skills and habits necessary to successfully derive value from today’s media. Knowing how to tell a troll from a serious thinker, spotting linkbait, understanding a meme, cross checking articles against each other, even posting a comment to disagree with something–these are skills. They might not feel like it, but they are. And they’re easier to acquire the higher your tax bracket.Everyone this side of Fake Jeff Jarvis ought to be able to see that many people do not have the luxury to act as their own media ombudsman.If I work as a security guard or at the counter of a Wendy’s, our media environment is significantly more difficult to track. Not everyone has their Internet time subsidized by an employer who asks them to sit in front of a computer all day. In fact, many people have jobs that forbid them from doing just that, with bosses who will write them up if caught checking their phone. These people–we often refer to them (derisively) as “average Americans”–are removed from the iterative, lightning-fast online media cycle for hours at a time and often for the entire day.
In an ideal world, professional educators and librarians would understand their responsibility to promote an environment and transmit the skills necessary to help a distressed and time-stressed population navigate these hazards. But I often wonder how many of them understand the problem at all.