Who Do You Trust?

I have been on the road a bit of late, with all the packing and unpacking that goes with travel. It dawned on me during a recent and frantic session that my packing has changed without my being aware of it. It was a small revelation.

For one thing, I am more organized about it than I used to be.10-05-11-margaret.jpg

I keep a vanity kit packed at all times with toothpaste, shampoo and the like. It is ready to toss into a suitcase after I add my vitamins and other current items. I keep a stash of no-iron clothes that survive travel, if not exactly unscathed, at least looking like no one slept in them. I have also learned to keep a travel umbrella in my regular suitcase, because you just never know no matter what the forecast says.

The main difference, though, is what I now deem essential to have that I never imagined in travels past.

As I left on my most recent jaunt, I had a moment of mini-panic when I thought I had left my mobile phone at home and another when I could not find the charger. Fortunately, I had packed both, and the same charger does double duty by fueling both my phone and my now-necessary tablet computer. The heretofore unknown tablet now goes everywhere I go, and I hardly know what I did without both it and the mobile phone.

I am comforted by the knowledge that I am hardly alone.

A stroll through any airport in the entire world reveals thousands of people yakking on their mobiles — or “handies” as they say in Europe, hunched over laptops or cradling tablets in their laps. They do this on planes as well in “airplane mode.”

Technology makes this possible, of course, and drives us to use it as well. There is an element of “keeping up with the Joneses,” of course, but there are also practical reasons. If the Precious Jewels are going to send me texts, which they do regularly, I have to have a device that can receive them and allow me to respond.

There is more.

In what seems increasingly like the olden days, we got most of our news and information from our local newspapers and television, which really meant three networks — ABC, CBS and NBC. Today, the options seem endless. There are hundreds of cable TV channels, some of which seem fairly sketchy to me but are there nonetheless. And, oh my goodness!, the Internet! If there is some topic impossible to search, I have not found it. Online is now the go-to source for news and information of all kinds, so much so that many people wonder what is going to happen to all those libraries full of actual books.

A recent report by the Pew Research Center and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation confirms what we are all up to now days, media-wise. We still depend on local newspapers, like Up and Coming Weekly, for local news and information. We read them at least once a week, although we do so increasingly online. Beyond that, media consumption is “Katie, Bar the Door!” Television remains our primary source of news — primarily weather, traffic and breaking stories — but radio and all manner of websites are in the mix as well.

The bottom line is that we are taking advantage of all the choices technology has brought us.

The situation is fluid, though, and there are aspects of it I find troubling, most notably that young people gravitate toward “softer” news stories, often passing on the more complex stories. Maybe that is just a matter of maturity, but… A separate Pew Research Center study tells us how confl icted we are about our media. Overwhelmingly, we distrust “the media.” More than two-thirds of us believe news is often inaccurate, that news organizations have agendas and that they are infl uenced by those in power. That is, all media except the outlets we personally like, which we fi nd fair and balanced.

We feel the same way about our elected offi cials.

By astounding margins, as much as 90 percent, we disdain Congress as a body but generally like our own representatives and senators. And in what social scientists refer to as “cognitive dissonance” — holding confl icting views at the same time — we do not seem concerned about where our news and information comes from. With so many options available, we lack interest in exactly who is generating our news content, or what, for example, would happen if local newspaper disappeared.

Who would tell us about local events and discuss local issues? Some website based in China? Who would write the news and disseminate it and would they try to be truthful or to advance their own points of view?

I am packing for another trip as I write this and have my gizmos stashed for the ride. I know they open new worlds of media, and I know something else about them as well.

They are driven by human nature, which is as old as time.

Photo: In what seems increasingly like the olden days, we got most of our news and information from our local newspapers and television, which really meant three networks.

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