When it comes to opinion, commentary, and interviews, I am not enthusiastic about video. Not at all. Never really have been. But I hadn’t given it much thought; just sort of lumped the whole thing in with commercials, which I despise, “DJ” babbling, which I also despise, and the general failure of the mass media to properly do what I consider to be its job, which is report things as they are and as they happen, rather than give me their opinions, which I am not interested in.

So today I ran into a link on a website that announced that it led to an interview with someone of general interest to me (it doesn’t really matter who.) I clicked on the link, it is fair to say, with considerable interest. But as it turned out, the link led to a video of an interview. I felt let down. Not a little bit; a lot. I lost interest in pursuing the presentation; and this change of heart happened fast enough that it caught my attention as a mini-event all by itself. I didn’t watch. Instead, I did a little thinking, and here’s what I came up with.

When it comes to reality, our perceptions are not all the same. One person may see an event one way, while I may see it another. For me to try to understand them, I need time to reflect on what they have said. If what they say is written, I can pause and reflect at any time, or not, as meets my needs. Simply a matter of choice; it is ultimately convenient.

What they are saying at any one point may be (probably is) related to what they said previously. If what they say is written, I can look back in the text, refresh myself on precisely what it was they had said before, and again, reflect. Perfectly convenient.

Should something appear contradictory, I can easily locate and contrast the statements in question. I feel this is fair, as with a written piece, presumably, they also had time to think things through. Thinking about it, I would much rather read someone’s carefully considered and constructed positions and so on as compared to whatever might come to mind when caught off-guard by a reporter. I’m not the least bit interested in a contest of how well someone can field tough questions off the cuff; I just want to know what they consider to be their best assessment of the subject matter is.

Should the interviewer or person being interviewed begin to babble or otherwise waste my time, I can easily locate the bounds of the irrelevancy and skip it. For instance, if the point of the piece for me is a constitutional issue, then should I encounter the usual miserable drivel I can paraphrase as “How ’bout them [insert favorite team here]“, I’ll speed-read and skim until the light of intelligence begins to shine again. That process is a sub-second one; and practice, as they say, makes perfect.

Should I have comments of my own I’d like to make, perhaps as letters to the editor or via some similar channel, it is considerably more effective to have the text right there to quote and comment upon, than it is to interminably review the video to locate the quote, then write that “at 4:29 into the presentation, Mr. Doe stated ‘yadda yadda’”, to which I herewith respond ‘”yadda YADDA yadda.”

Lastly, reading is active — I choose what I’m doing at all times; or to put it another way, I’m actually pursuing an activity of my own at a pace that I choose. If the material seems dense to me, I can proceed slowly. If it is relatively lightweight, I can zip along. Video is extremely passive in a “lead by the nose” sort of way, unless you’re a lot more active with the DVR remote than I am. I find that I pretty much watch video at the speed it comes, and if the material is coming too fast, I get behind, I miss things; contrariwise, if it is coming too slowly, I fume and fulminate and otherwise inject irrelevance into the experience. When reading, this does not happen. How could it? I’m reading, I’m in control; the video is playing itself. It is in control. That’s the difference, right there.

I think that in short, the benefits of the written word for matters of import boil down to the ability to reflect as required, and immediate access to any useful, relevant portion of the discussion at any time. And of course, no commercial interruptions.

So now I know. It’s no wonder I don’t like video news, opinion, interviews and commentary. Video is a miserable failure compared to the written word.

Makes one wonder why its so popular. Suspicious, even. And then I found this horrifying article.

Now that was depressing.

The good news is that I can still read; I can still concentrate; in fact I read a book every day or two when they’re fiction, and about one or two a week when they’re serious works. But I’ll definitely watch out for the symptoms that poor author describes. Sounds like hell on earth to me.

Video may have killed the radio stars; here’s hoping it doesn’t kill the serious writers, and their readers along with them.