Viewfinder: Pay Attention to the Right Things


There are so many things to pay attention to, how can we possibly give the proper amount of attention to everything? Here at York Publishing, there are many ways for constituents to express themselves. We get plenty of e-mail and somewhat less snail mail. To date, text has been the chief medium for members of our community to express themselves. Our annual video contest occasionally includes videotaped suggestions regarding our focus, but this represents a tiny fraction compared to the letters and e-mail that we receive.

The idea of people using text to convey their ideas is the norm for the entire world. People write letters and e-mail to the editor of their local newspaper, elected officials, teachers, magazine editors and their friends. That last category, "their friends," is a profoundly different audience compared to all of the others. When people write to their friends, they expect to reach an audience of one. Writing to a friend is singular. The writer conveys the idea to the reader. The other examples are far more likely to consist of a much larger audience.

When we write to a teacher, often we hope that she will communicate our ideas to her students. When we write to an elected official, about reducing crime for example, we hope that a powerful committee will review our correspondence. When we write to the editor of a publication, we hope that he will publish our ideas for thousands of people to read. Expressing ourselves to "as many people as possible" empowers us to "make a difference in the world."

We often take this for granted. American citizens are able to express their ideas to large audiences. In Cuba, for example, the citizens don’t have the same expectation. The freedom of expression and freedom of the press that we enjoy in the USA is not a worldwide standard today, nor has it ever been.

During the past few years, the Internet has enabled people to express themselves to far more people than ever before. E-mail, online forums and Web sites have enabled more people to convey more ideas to more people than ever before. Governments of countries that do not embrace freedom of expression are losing their battle for suppression, because of the Internet.

The idea that freedom of expression leads to greater collaboration for seeking the truth is not new. In the 1600s, John Milton wrote about "the liberty to know, to utter and to argue freely according to conscience." In his monumental Areopagitica, Milton argued that truth and falsehood should grapple in a free and open encounter. In the decades following Milton’s writing, the concept of freedom of expression began to rise, eventually becoming the standard in most societies.

My writing thus far, has referred to text as the medium of expression. Anyone that has been reading this magazine for more than a few months knows how passionate I am about television becoming a medium where various opinions can be expressed in a free and open encounter.

It is my opinion that there are far too few people producing the programs that we see on our TV sets.

The opinions of these few elite producers seem to have greater merit, due to the simple fact that TV is the medium that they use to convey their ideas. TV is the most powerful medium of communication that humankind has ever known. Statistics say that over 98% of American households have a TV, and it is in the "on" position for over eight hours per day in most homes. Collectively that’s nearly a billion "expression" hours each day. Yet the number of people that can convey their ideas to an audience via television is a tiny fraction of that.

We are very pleased that over the past 13 years Videomaker has chronicled advancements that enable more people to communicate via TV. Editing video today is very easy and affordable. Duplication and distribution of VHS tape is well within the reach of anyone wishing to produce video for an audience. The proliferation of niche cable and satellite TV networks has increased the opportunities for independent video producers. As I mentioned, the Internet has had a profound effect on the distribution of the written word from a person with a perception of truth to many people seeking the truth. You all know that sending video over the Internet is becoming easier, and the quality of Internet video is increasing at a steady pace. It is an exciting time for creative people with insight to use video as a form of expression.

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