The Desperate Need To Be ‘Somebody’

Like a great many others in the days following the atrocity in Uvalda, Texas, I struggled to make sense of it all. My first thought was that this was a crime of rage and that there’s too much rage in our culture. I’ve changed my mind, however, because I now believe that these crimes are birthed of fear. Nothing else can produce the kinds of behavior we’re seeing with these shootings. We can talk about gun control, poor use of background checks, and mental illness, but I think it’s all motivated by fear — specifically, the fear of being a nobody. From social media “influencers” to billionaires and their rockets, it seems as though everybody else is succeeding in life. But what about those who don’t succeed, or worse, can find no way that they could ever share in what they’re seeing on television or their phones?

The correct term for this is envy, one of the seven deadly sins. Envy is not the same as coveting; it’s much more intensely personal. It’s entirely driven by our egos, for a healthy self is content to let life be in charge, to simply blossom where they’re planted.

Back in the mid-1970s, I went through a season in my life of hanging only with African-American friends. I dressed in silky Superfly clothes, with wide and long shirt collars — open with chest hair on display — and, of course, the jewelry. I went to the black bars and hung with friends who played basketball with our television station recreation league team. One of my friends during that season was an inner-city high school basketball coach. I remember playing in a benefit game at his gym, where the crowd erupted when I hit a jump shot. I asked my buddy the coach about it, and he said, “Look around, stupid! You’re the only white guy in the building!”

One day, he invited me to watch his team practice. It was fascinating. Every time one of them hit a shot, he would cry out, “I’m known!” Over and over, a made shot evoked shouts of “I’m known!” I asked my friend about it, and he said that scoring in a high school game meant you’d get your name in the paper. Hence, “I’m known!” This was an amazing revelation to me, and I still think about it today. What must it be like to grow up feeling like a nobody, unless you could score in high school sports, because that mean you weren’t a nobody; you were known!

There exists today a deep pocket of Americans who go through their lives feeling unknown. It spans the gamut of nationalities, and it’s especially prevalent among uneducated white folks in America’s Southland. They are incensed at the idea that they are somehow “privileged” because they’re white, when the reality is they’re dirt poor while pretending otherwise. Redneck culture includes driving home to young people the reality that they are nobodies. Behaviors, especially alcohol and sex, are designed specifically to toughen up young boys to face the inevitable. It’s not uncommon for incredible episodes of abuse in the lives of these young people. Born a redneck; die as a redneck. Very few people make it out. The most remarkable thing about rednecks is their refusal to publicly embrace a loser identity, which is why they vote Republican. “We’re just fine. We’re independent. We take care of our own and don’t need any of your government assistance.”

In his remarkable book, The Righteous Redneck’s Journey To Love, Keith Coffell tells of the cruelty applied to him as the community did their best to turn him into a “redneck soldier”. At the age of 12, he was taken to the woods by his uncle and an older boy, stripped, and sexually assaulted. Here’s a paragraph from later that night:

As I lay face down on my bed with my head buried in my pillow, I could still feel Uncle Joe’s slimy hands on my body, smell his whiskey laden breath breathing down my neck, feel his prickly whiskers rubbing against my chest, and cringe at the thought of Bobby’s sticky tongue pressing against my body. I cried myself to sleep that night and the next night and the next night and the next night. In fact, the nightmare of the rape still haunts and taunts me from time to time. I never told my parents. I felt they didn’t care. And in my mind, I believed Daddy would have simply said, “Stop your fuss boy, you in Redneck Boot Camp. You’ll be alright.”

Of course, not every redneck soldier is raped, but the takeaway here is that this kind of ignorance and brutality are likely more prevalent in the South than anybody realizes. If we ever want to understand the kinds of evil that this kind of treatment can produce, we only need to look into the roots that produced such rotten fruit in the first place.

New York Times best-selling author Mike Robinson says, “When you accept yourself for who you are without trying to be a ‘somebody’ in the eyes of humanity, then you have let go of your ego…Only an ego would make a person a ‘somebody’ or its opposite, a ‘nobody’. Your descriptive labels are not who you are, they are what you have become, so don’t judge yourself and others on the value of a label. Instead allow the true you to emerge, because when you are not attached to any descriptive label, you are free”

In a new article about Robinson’s book The True Dynamics of Life in CISION (PRWeb), writer Sara Gibbons provides a warning that summarizes Robinson’s thoughts:

“…to be a ‘somebody’ a person has to become something other than what they are, and to do that they have to desire, strive and suffer. He relates this to the very beginnings of society and the consequent development of desire for more. This caused society to split and divide into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. This split is called envy, which is the fundamental fear of not having enough or not being good enough. It is the fear of being a ‘nobody’. This is so destructive to human life that it is more deadly than AIDS, HIV, cancer and more toxic than greenhouse gases.

By association, the GOP appeals to this need to be “somebody”. As the representatives of the wealthy, they ought to know who’s a somebody and who is not. By appearing to represent Evangelical Christianity, Republicans appeal to their sense of faith as a representation that they are okay, alright, and on the side of good. Add to that sweeping generalizations from the Bible, such as “Nothing is impossible with God”.

The greatest evil here may be that the GOP uses envy to manipulate the electorate on behalf of the rich and the extremely rich. The unintended consequences, of course, are all over the map, and include things like we saw this week. The Bible actually calls this “tickling the ears”, which is a whole lot easier than educating people. It tries to make them feel warm and wanted, well, except for those who don’t.

I agree with Mike Robinson that this struggle between the ego and the self — if effectively supported from without — is at the core of most things that are wrong with us humans at this stage in our development.

The insanity of Uvalde is just one more, highly horrific example.

The Rise of Women’s Volleyball

2021 NCAA DI women's volleyball championship selections announced | NCAA.com

The 2021 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament gets underway this week, and the quality of the teams this year is pretty staggering. I’ve become a super fan of women’s volleyball, and (you know me) I’m seeing some things that need discussion, because this sport is outgrowing its parochial infrastructure. If the powers that be play their cards correctly, this could become the new rage in televised sports.

The bottom line is this: Volleyball is not only the top participatory sport for girls in the United States, but it’s also the fastest growing participatory sport for girls. Girls don’t just play volleyball in school; there exists a rapidly-growing club level volleyball that is expanding to handle the demand. This is producing REALLY talented players who then go on to scholarships from NCAA teams each trying to build the best volleyball programs possible. It’s impossible to overstate the upward pressure that all of this is putting on the sport.

Upward pressure is also coming from social media and the tools available for preparing and presenting promotional videos of their daughters and sisters for recruiting. YouTube is a goldmine of such videos and provides a service previous generations didn’t have. This is only going to get better.

Florida State is in the tournament with a remarkable team of almost entirely freshmen. They’re about to get even better next year with the addition of Audrey Rothman from Spring Park here in Alabama. I’ve seen this girl play, and she’s the top volleyball player from the state. She’s 6′4″ and a 6‑rotation player that will fit in beautifully with Florida State’s system. But, for every Audrey Rothman, there are hundreds of others talented enough to play in Division I, and that is raising the level of the game throughout every conference in the NCAA.

I love the game and the talent it takes to play at the highest levels. Every aspect of the game is getting better and better, because coaching and preparation have also evolved to accommodate the interest from young girls. NCAA Volleyball women are terrific role models for girls, because there’s a certain elegance, fun, and glamour that accompanies the sport. Volleyball players are by nature VERY smart and capable leaders, and who would argue that our world needs such people?

With all of this, you’d think that the sport would be considered among the other potential moneymakers of college sports, but that’s not the case. On some campuses — especially in the Big Ten — a women’s volleyball ticket is the hardest to get. These schools have given resources to the sport and have been repaid with creative fans who turn each match into a loud and fun campus event. From bench dance contests to playing The Beatles “Let It Be” complete with phone lights waving whenever their opponent challenges a call that went in their favor.

With all of this going for it, women’s volleyball is suffering badly from growing pains, especially with television. ESPN gives cursory scattered matches on its channels, but there is no overview media assigned to the sport. Conferences operate with autonomy, each advertising that only volleyball from THEIR conference is worth watching. These conferences have their own cable or streaming channels, and the result is a high degree of parochiality in the sport. Certain conferences are stronger than others, but all are judged by their records and statistics, which are skewed by the level of competition in each. For example, there are eight teams in the tournament from the Big Ten, and it’s more than likely that all will make it to the second round. That means that of 32 teams, 8 would be from one conference.

But that, too, is facing the upward pressure from the younger girls. Conferences other than The Big Ten (who’s the genius who came up with B1G?) are rising to the very top, and the Louisville Cardinals are this year’s example. The competition will only get tougher throughout all conferences.

As an old television guy, much of my focus has been on how the sport could become more television-friendly. There are plenty of good announcers to handle the sport, but they aren’t helped much by production. Graphics, statistics, and personal accomplishments could be presented so much better. Key to games are the challenges to referee calls, which require replay. However, the sport moves so fast that the points of contention aren’t easy to “see” absent very high speed cameras at the net and the court’s out-of-bounds line. Storytelling is also weak, because there aren’t the resources dedicated to making it better.

There is no news report that covers volleyball thoroughly, and this is important to establish and maintain the growth and evolution of the sport. No reports on upcoming high schoolers. No reports about club tournaments or human interest stories of young girls playing volleyball. A weekly, one hour program with Paul Sunderland and commentators that covered everything in the sport would be very useful for the growing competition level. Somebody needs to track all of this.

There needs to be television coverage of the sport from outside the bubbles of the conference networks. This coverage would include news and updates from around the NCAA.

There is no America pro volleyball league, and it’s inevitable there will be one. The sport is simply growing too fast to not give these women a chance to pursue careers in volleyball. I’d run a slate of games on Sunday afternoon to compete with NFL football. Perhaps an Alumni League would serve the same purpose.

At some schools, the sport isn’t promoted on campus, which results in light crowds on hand to set the excitement level during matches. Obviously, there needs to be drives on campus to recruit students for the gallery, but teams could also reach out to the local club and high school scenes to fill those stands, even if it means comping the tickets. A televised match with little audience is bad TV.

Volleyball is filling a need by providing a sport that is actually more fun to watch when women play the game, not men. That makes it unique in the sporting world and another powerful reason for college athletics to take notice. Remember, it’s the fastest-growing participatory sport for young girls in the U.S.

ESPN, are you hearing this?

Dear Parents and Grandparents

The Scroggins Family of St. Louis

I want to speak to you here as a person with a peculiar study focus. I don’t know why or how, but I’m able to see what appears obvious to me, the birth and growth of the Postmodern Era in human history. Modernity with its logical systems focus has painted itself into a corner and must give way to the new. As modernity was birthed in the printing press, postmodernity was conceived and delivered from the womb of the web. I do not speak of philosophical postmodernism, but rather the changing of the eras in history. The mantra of modernity is “I think and reason, therefore I understand” but it has changed to “I participate, therefore I understand.”

Are you with me?

We must be able to see what’s coming in terms of the big things as this era develops further. We may not be around for the payoff that our children and grandchildren will experience, but there are ways we can equip ourselves to help them today, beginning with an acknowledgement that life is definitely changing. It’s super important for them to participate, even though we’re making this up as we go along.

We are all connected now. That means I can connect directly and sideways with everybody else or just a select few. This is something completely new, and we can’t even image how much life on earth is being and will be changed as a result.

First, a warning. You either do this for them, or somebody else — with less concern for their individuality — will do it for them, and this is not a best practice for tomorrow.

Even to the young man, let’s say, who’s only interested in working in the trades, either for somebody or as an independent contractor, even he will sink or swim on his ability to use the network effectively. It’s the way of future competition, and nobody will be exempt.

Our digital identities will actually be more important than what we know under the sun, and this is where we can help our progeny.

  • Equip them before they are even able to help themselves. Buy domains. Secure usernames. Sit with them and help them develop their online IDs. If they don’t control their own brands, someone else will do it for them.
  • Show them the dangers, but don’t dwell on it, for it’s their creativity that needs tapping more than their security needs protecting.
  • Teach them about links and how everything is linked together. Links are the currency of the web, and you need to teach them why. These links teach a practical lesson in deconstructionism, something that is of enormous value in helping our children shape their lives. It must be taught early and often.
  • Do not discourage their involvement in video games, because they teach mental and manual dexterity and mind-to-finger channeling, skills they will likely need downstream.
  • Teach them to avoid being herded into traps by the lust of their own eyes.
  • Buy a generator for your home, so you can teach the value of being prepared for anything.
  • Show them that their attention is the only real scarcity in the commerce that’s being brought into existence, and as Kevin Kelly says, “We should be paid for it.” This means that postmodern advertising will seek out customers and pay them to watch their ads. The logic of this is solid, but feathers will be ruffled in the process of its development.
  • Teach them to back-up their work before they go to bed at night. Use a form of a server in your home that can serve as storage and back-up for everything.
  • Put searchable books in your digital library, including everything they’ll need for school and the interests that they display.
  • Get them private lessons in Google/YouTube, coding, Photoshop, WordPress, and social media. There are people in your community who will do this on any level you wish.
  • Teach them to think of school as a place where they can practice their branding, to not be swayed by eyes that are being exposed to cultural fads and stereotypes. Just keep them pressing forwards.
  • Show them that the more dependent we become on electricity, the more vulnerable are EMP weapons. Personal protection against such will be a thriving business downstream. Think “shielding” or similar responses.
  • Teach them all you can about human nature, and how it doesn’t change in the digital world. Teach them to study the whys of human nature, which will open the door to better understanding motive. A certain degree of cynicism is healthy, because they will certainly be exposed to propaganda in their search for truth. Teach them discernment.
  • Personal branding belongs to each and every person on the block, and it’s perhaps the most important subject to learn while growing up.
  • Do not forsake teaching them grammar and good English, for technology is still learning nuance.
  • Teach them the true nature of God, for God is most certainly One who participates with us in our everyday lives and provides an internal governor for our behavior.

No matter how much modernist people insist that IRL is better than URL, we’re learning in the 21st-Century that the efficiencies of URL render much of life to be wasteful. Take the current kerfuffle over the Post Office and mail-in ballots. Do you honestly think we can’t eventually create a secure voting system online? The web may lose some of its anonymity, but would that really be all that bad?

I see the day when the opportunities of the web vastly outweigh concerns from our old ways of doing things. We will listen to the naysayers and thank them for their concern, but we must never put them in charge.

Modernity is done; long live the Age of Participation.

Are You (and your kids) TV Ready?

The seminal marketing (see Doc’s comment below) book for the digital age was The Cluetrain Manifesto, first published in 1999. The first thesis was “Markets are conversations,” and I immediately sensed that this line of thinking would become my own, for I couldn’t argue with the book’s wisdom. It is still highly relevant today, especially if you’re lacking some foundational thinking about the web. It’s available for free here.

Dan Gillmor’s “We the Media” in 2004 and J.D. Lasica’s “Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation” in 2005 were the first two books to generally describe the disruption of personal media. J.D., in fact, coined the phrase “personal media revolution” to tag what was about to descend upon our culture. And, oh boy, has it ever! I was so convinced of its certainty, that I dedicated many years to study it and report back to television clients about the enormity of it all.

Nobody cared. They were making too much money doing things the old way, and that was professional media’s great downfall. These executives could only see as far as their business model could carry them. They were married to one-to-many marketing and too blind to even see the disruption of targeting individual browsers. Online, I would tell them, afforded two-way advertising wherein the ad was served to eyeballs, but the server received information back from the ad. It was obvious to some of us that the pros were doomed.

When I was teaching college students, they’d ask, for example, what’s the best way to get to be a sportscaster? My response was always, “Just BE a sportscaster. Establish your brand. Blossom where you’re planted. You don’t need the institution to ‘do’ sports, not when you can do it on your own.”

The web loathes filters and their roadblocks, which it views as inefficient annoyances that serve no useful purpose. The web’s basic function is to connect people in a 3‑dimensional media form. It can be one-to-many, many-to-one, and most importantly, many to many, thus turning every browser into a form of media company itself, including the people formerly known as the advertisers.

The personal media revolution has advanced so far today (and it’s got a long, long way to go yet) that everyday people have been able to exploit the free time granted them through the coronavirus to explore beyond surfing or connecting via social media. No institution has been more impacted that adult entertainment. Yup, that’s right; good old porn. For the uneducated, Only Fans and many other similar sites offer software that enables anybody to become a porn star and get paid directly by the audiences they “serve.” This same concept is giving new light to each of the arts, and this is a good thing for our culture.

While this is highly chaotic to many other institutions of the West (and I could go on), but the aspect of this that needs the most discussion is how TV itself is being reinvented. The very definition of the TV is changing. In the beginning, it was reserved for broadcasters only. As each new form of video delivery appeared on the scene, they, too, were tagged (by the disruptors) as “TV.”

And today, YouTube is exploding with fresh content posted by this personal media revolution, and they are called “TV.” In the world of Reality TV, the vast majority of contestants are seasoned TV performers before they set foot on the set. In truth, those who apply to be on reality shows see the experience as a way to dramatically increase their individual influence on social media as experienced TV performers.

On the show Married at First Sight (MAFS), this same thinking applies, although this show can involve some very unusual contestants. Take Henry, of Henry and Christina, one of the couples married at first sight in the current season. Henry is, well, a little quirky with quite an awful set of parents who doubtless contributed to his lack of social skills. Reddit, that online gathering of talkative people with opinions who enjoy the company of others of a similar ilk, has a whole section on MAFS.

One Redditor (as they’re called) who goes by NoWayJeFe, had this to say about Henry: “Decent guy just not TV ready.” It would seem being “TV ready” is a prerequisite for appearing on these sorts of shows, but it speaks volumes about where we are as a society. It would seem that from the earliest years, kids are now learning how to be “TV ready” from the time they face their first cameras and microphones, even if it’s just an iPad.

There’s the Barbie TV News Team dolls, where little girls can pretend to be the real thing. Take a quick look at YouTube’s kids channels, and you’ll be overwhelmed by the sheer number of kids playing TV. It’s almost a rite of passage these days, and in so doing, these kids and teens are learning what we all have known for a long time in the world of television news: it’s just not all that hard to do. Sorry if I’m toe-stepping here, but it’s just much, much easier than all the “broadcast” schools would have us believe. I mean, where’s the money for an industry that can be easily duplicated with an iPhone?

Think TV has shot its wad in 2020? Think again, because there are no rules to these youngsters as they invent their own uses for the video medium. They start by copying but soon move to innovating. Those who pretend its rocket science are slowly going to fade into the setting sun.

To parents and grandparents, are your kids TV ready? If not, that would be a great investment for their future. Get them what they need to make media. Buy usernames or obtain them for free on the various sites that require them. They will fight their own media wars downstream, and those who’ve been properly prepared will have a head start.

But what do I know, right? We’ll see. Maybe I won’t see how far it goes, but you certainly may. And, those kids of yours will be the ones who’ll need these skills the most.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Hey local TV. This remains a viable business opportunity. You balked at it all those years ago, but it’s still there. Who better to teach local people to be TV ready than local TV?)

Terminal Uniqueness

To addicts in recovery, we are made aware that the real disease of addiction is called “Terminal Uniqueness,” that age-old quest to prove myself better, worse, or otherwise different than you. It is entirely ego-driven, and it effects people in ways that are both observable to others and deeply-known by the sufferers. Its most damaging symptom is that it results in our separating from others and isolating, because it validates the internal belief that I am somehow unique. The word itself means alone in whichever class we pick, and that is what leads to all sorts of behavior that undermines our self-worth.

I’ve written about this before, but I need to take a slightly different tact today.

I can get away with presenting this as an illness inclined towards addicts, but the truth is it’s rampant in our culture, especially today when we have so much leverage in determining our own brands. Yup, that’s what we call crafting a sellable self for others to consume.

You can find it in discussions of race or poverty today. It’s all over political arguments. You can certainly find it on social media everywhere. You can find it on “Only Fans” (BTW, parents, do you know if your son or daughter has an Only Fans page?) among those who take their clothes off and do nasty things to make a buck while in isolation. Take a look at the patrons, for example, of Walmart, where a particular form of uniqueness can be found in the way people dress. Pick just about any issue, and you’ll find it stuffed with the masks and fallacious imagery of those who offer support or disagreement. Wealthy people have their own ways of standing out, but it depends on your point-of-view.

Our culture is flooded with the unspoken cry, “Dig me,” and its institutions are designed to take advantage of the disease.

  • Finance: You need money to reach your objective. We can help.
  • Marriage: You need the right “partner” to be all you can be. We can help.
  • Medicine: You need your health for your unique journey. We can help.
  • Mental Health: You need to determine how far you can go with this. We can help.
  • Religion: You need us to make sure you have a right relationship with God. You want God’s blessing, right? We can help.
  • The Law: You need to make sure you don’t cross the wrong lines in your effort to be YOU. We can help.
  • Education: We can put you on the right path for your unique objective.

These groups represent the status quo in Western life, the aristocrats, the one percent. We are the hamsters on their wheels. And so we plot and plan. We try things on to see how they fit. We organize ourselves around our self-image and fine tune it before heading out to make a name for ourselves. I mean, it’s the American way, right?

So it has always been and will always be, unless there is a righteous rebellion.

We’ve gotten so far downstream in this effort today that we’re no longer able to even consider how alike we really are.

“But my husband…”
“But my upbringing…”
“But my abuse…”
“But my bad luck…”
“But my illness(es)…”
“But my injury…”
“But my situation…”

Can we please stop our complaining?

We find excuses everywhere to deny our nature as garden-variety human beings. It seems there’s just no future in being just one in the crowd. Who wants to be “normal?”

Somewhere inside all the masks and afflictions, we are all the same.

My old shrink, Doctor Gagrat, told me once:

“Terry, people are like snowflakes. All different but all still snowflakes. Put some heat to them, and they melt. If I stab you with an ice pick, you’ll bleed, and your blood will be red. If I stab your psyche with a weapon, you also bleed.”

This is without a doubt a true statement, and my point today is that if we were each simply seeking our authentic selves, we’d be much better off as a species within the cosmos. Instead of seeking to stand out, we would be able to give our attention to being better human beings.

But who wants to be a better human? What does that do for ME?

  • Life is free to do our heavy lifting for us.
  • It allows us be imperfect, just like everybody else.
  • It buys us freedom.
  • It buys us peace and all of the spiritual fruit we believe is tied to the goals of our struggle.
  • It allows for unconditional love.
  • We cease striving for “our” place within the whole, for our place is already set.
  • Life gets remarkably easy to live, for we’re in sync with it instead of fighting against it.
  • Things go wrong, of course, but we’re able to place them in the proper perspective.

The real idiocy of this disease is that it’s so incredibly useless. It functions as a yoke attaching us to a life of constant struggle. You wonder why people can’t sleep? The subconscious mind doesn’t shut down when attempting to sleep, because it’s way too active trying to plan the next steps in the fantasy. If we could just all say “Enough!”

This ought to be the top priority of all religions and the most preached sermon across the globe. Only then will we learn the truth about what humanity is doing on this planet and the path for reaching our universal purpose.

We simply don’t have the power to sustain such artificiality.

The Re-Rise of the Newsletter

The professional news industry is being forced to return to its roots by a world it doesn’t — and probably never will — fully understand. It began with the industry’s initial response to the digital disruption, which was to reproduce its entire finished product for the web. The web, however, wasn’t built by newspapers; it was built by highly creative and rebellious geeks who changed the world without the status quo telling them it needed changing.

The web was a brand new communications invention, not a new distribution channel for old ways of doing things, and in missing this truth, the industry was completely lost. The newspaper people wanted to present their finished product online, but the geeks knew from the start that this was inefficient and a cheap substitute for what was possible.

Blog software, with its reverse chronological flow, came first, quickly followed by ways to distribute content apart from its host. Social media is, at core, the news “audience” talking amongst themselves, which was contrary to the top-down relationship that the press had with its readers. The shift to mobile brought new challenges, the biggest being a playing field built around scrolling and video in portrait mode. News drifted away from the finished product variety and into the world of continuous news.

Of course, the biggest disruptor by far was how advertising was changing to adapt to the new, and a realization that smart marketers could provide ads at the browser level and based on the behaviors of that browser. This offered a much greater likelihood of advertiser return-on-investment. History books will cite this as causing the death of newspapers, but it’s really more a case of ignorance, for newspapers still lack the technology and the networks to provide this to local advertisers. The industry has ceded defeat to Google without even firing a shot.

And, now comes the newest era of the email newsletter, a technology that’s been around since the dawn of email but generally only used to provide links to the industry’s “real” content online. The shift today, however, includes those who give the energy it takes to produce actual content for newsletters, and it’s a godsend to overwhelmed news consumers. This trend is going to continue until a company’s online newsletter will become the primary method that news organizations use to disseminate news and information.

People can pass them around, which often results in new subscribers.

The first trader newsletters during the Middle Ages — actual letters from observers in far away places — were the precursor to the newspaper industry. Wikipedia notes that “Trader’s newsletters covered various topics such as the availability and pricing of goods, political news, and other events that would influence trade.” This is the essence of today’s developing process, and it suits not only the web’s unique abilities but also that most precious of earthly commodities: time.

I’ll be 74 this summer, and I spend most of my days online in an endless search for knowledge. Even with all that time, I still feel uninformed, because studying modern times is like trying to take a sip from a firehose. It’s the primary reason I’ve turned to newsletters. They’re out there; you just have to find them. Here are five newsletters that hit my inbox overnight or every morning:

The New York Times: While this is primarily a tool to “drive traffic” back to its newspaper site, the content is growing to include small story summaries throughout. It’s a way to follow the Times without subscribing to its main product.

Mondoweiss: I have family of Palestinians that lived in Amman, Jordan for a great many years, so my window on the Middle East is a little different than most. I don’t trust the Israeli’s, and I need an outlet that understands this. Mondoweiss is a terrific example of a point-of-view news organization that represents an extreme minority in the West. I need that to stay informed.

Dave Winer: Dave is one of the real gems in providing important technology news in a highly conversational format. I also really like Dave as a person, and his takes on life in general also give me food for thought. Dave’s is a constant voice on Twitter, and he uses his newsletter to summarize those thoughts. Moreover, and this is important, Dave is always a yard ahead of everybody else, and if he’s taking the trouble to produce a newsletter, it’s something that requires my attention.

Mathew Ingram: Mathew provides summaries and links to the stories he finds important. I trust Mathew and lean on his understanding to help my own.

Brian Stelter and Oliver Darcy: CNN’s Reliable Sources is (by a mile) the most useful contemporary newsletter in the market today. It is the model for others to copy, for it’s loaded with content written for readers of the newsletter. What a concept! Oh, it contains marketing and links, but it is written to be read, and the summaries are specifically aimed at people such as myself and all of those who just don’t have the time to invest in reading complete stories.

There are many others out there, and I’ll probably be extending my subscription list as I find those suited to my tastes. The point is that I get to decide what I wish to influence my thinking, not the forced and irritating offerings of the artificial and manipulative hegemony known as objectivity. That old standard disappeared with the advent of continuous streams of news. Journalism has always spoken with the authority of overseers, which is the luxury afforded to those who could afford a printing press. Today, every single person on the net is a media company and able to distribute their content just like the big boys.

To those who would drag out the ol’ echo chamber meme to accuse me of circular logic, let me state once again that my experience in helping to create right wing news means that I know that it’s just political propaganda disguised as news. Give me a little credit for that tidbit, because I’ve already turned the page on it.

If you don’t subscribe to newsletters, my advice is to begin today. Click on the links I’ve provided, if you’re interested in those. If you find yourself being fed content that you find bitter or tasteless, unsubscribing is just a click away.

To those in the news industry, if you don’t produce a newsletter, what are you waiting for? The only rules are that it can’t be a vehicle that merely “drives traffic” back to its point of origin, and ads should be presented as content, perhaps even written by the newsletter’s author(s).