9/17/2006

When I am King: Headline News

When I am King...
There will be no news stories, only news headlines.


With all of the information swirling around the world and all of the demands on our time, who has time to read all this stuff? Much better to just read the headline, get the gist, and move on.
This is already happening to a great extent. Go to the front page of any news site and all you see are headlines. If you want the stories, you can click through, but who has time for that? It's surely much better to spend that time finding out that a boy was rescued from a well in Ohio and that there's another world war starting than to find out the details on the poor Ohioan (Ohian? Ohic? Ohihowareya?).

The current system of headlines and stories is just not sustainable, nor is it good for The People. Give someone a newspaper and they will inevitably spend time reading some of the stories (after the comics, of course). Give someone a headline URL and they may click on it and read the underlying story. Meanwhile, volumes of information are lost as people dive deep into irrelevant stories instead of learning more about the Big Picture by reading more headlines.

Thus I will mandate a headline-only approach to news. News sites such as CNN will consist of only a single page full of headlines, or may opt to have some sub-pages to hold more headlines. Newspapers may come back into popularity as they reduce down from 1,000 page epics to a single page of headlines, plus some for ads and comics. Radio news shows will go from audio essays to sound bytes, as they reel off headline after useful headline. They will be able to both shorten their broadcasts and offer more information. Public radio will finally be able to handle the ongoing drastic funding cuts as shows like All Things Considered go from a two hour show down to 10 minutes (the show will be renamed All Things Mentioned).

We will all become more acquainted with current events since we will have much more time to absorb information. We in the U.S. may even see and hear news about other countries, since there will be space to fill after the latest gripping boy-in-well headlines; no longer will stories like Earthquake Destroys All of Africa go unnoticed by the general populace. We could even find the time to learn more about our world with all of the new information we can absorb. It is not hard to envision headlines such as Portugal is a Country in Europe and Germans Speak Language Called German that would be useful in educating a now more globally-aware public.

My critics are quick to point out the potential downside that noone will know anything beyond the very basic information imparted in the headline. But I remain steadfast in my belief that this is irrelevant. For one thing, I find it unlikely that anyone actually remembers any of the details of these stories beyond the headlines. But perhaps more importantly, we learn about our world through interacting with other people. And what better way to interact than to have a veritable plethora of conversation topics to bring up? Rather than enter a conversation with a deeper understanding of just one or two stories, why not launch into it with a thousand stories you can bring up? No, I must disagree with my detractors; far better to go for quantity.

By learning less, we will know more.
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