July 1, 2009
Wading Through the Morass
I cant recall a time in our worlds history when
the news media -- as a collective, commercial entity -- has been in straits more dire than
it is today. Newspapers left and right are declaring bankruptcy; there are allegations of
bias in print and on TV by the right and left; the blogosphere has gained
prominence, making celebrities of some bloggers, villains of others; some Internet-only
publications are now considered more "mainstream" than some of the remaining
print media; and, of course, folks are Twittering and Tweeting all over the place. The
dissemination and consumption of information is at an all-time high -- every day seems to
bring some new method of distribution -- yet there is little, if any, consensus on which
are the most reliable places to get the most factually accurate news.
The audio press is a microcosm of the larger media world,
and the SoundStage! Network has been part of that microcosm since 1995. The subjects we
discuss each month in our family of websites are not matters of life and death, and we
dont have at our disposal the deep resources of such traditional publications as Time
and Newsweek. Nonetheless, the same issues that plague traditional and
nontraditional news outlets are hounding the audio press as never before. Bias,
dishonesty, incompetence, irrelevance -- all are represented in our industry. The worst
part is that its up to you, the reader, to wade through it all.
To combat these problems, media companies should have
certain checks in place. First and foremost is the gatekeeper -- the editor -- who should
be knowledgeable, levelheaded, and able to filter content so that only accurate reporting
is published. Good publications have multiple levels of editors, all of whom are skilled
at keeping the writers messages intact while ensuring accuracy and clear language.
But when those responsibilities are abdicated, the results
will be all over the map. Two examples:
"I have to say that
the . . . loudspeaker system is the best that there is, the best that
there ever was, and I suspect the best that there will ever be."
"The . . . are the flattest
speakers yet designed from about 25Hz to beyond human hearing."
The above two quotations appeared in actual reviews
published in an audio e-zine. Id rather not link to those reviews in my article
because, once youve clicked over to them, youll likely be too amused or too
outraged to click back to this article. Truth can be stranger than fiction.
Where was the editorial oversight? One product was
"the best that there ever was," the other "the flattest speakers yet
designed." If such statements are jokes, I dont get them. If, however,
theyre serious attempts to inform readers about real products, then something has
gone terribly awry. Even those whove never read a single audio review in their lives
can see the lack of common sense in these statements -- to say nothing of the lack of accuracy.
Jeff Fritz in his listening room. Take note of the
measuring microphone near the listening position.
Ultimately, however, such quotations speak for themselves.
I wont go into a long, self-aggrandizing dissertation here on the quality of our own
writers, the editorial systems weve put in place to improve accuracy and provide
editorial oversight, or the nature of the overall corporate culture of the SoundStage!
Network. Nor will I claim that weve been perfect. What I will state, with absolute
confidence, is that our publications are designed to provide accurate information, just as
a properly engineered loudspeaker is designed to achieve a level of fidelity -- to the
truth. The SoundStage! Networks corporate structure and the commitment of its staff
are firmly in place to ensure that you can count on what you read here.
In a time of dramatic upheaval in the world of media, and
within the microcosm that is the audio press, we at the SoundStage! Network need to
redouble our efforts to aspire to accurate reportage. I cant say that well be
perfect, but well sure try. I hope that the results meet your need for solid,
dependably accurate information about the hobby we all share.
. . . Jeff Fritz