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Does following the news work?

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.

Matt Thompson:

I’ve long assumed that if you followed the news, the stories behind the headlines would become plain. By reading your newspaper over time, you’d develop a high-level understanding of the issues. You’d have an idea of the characters involved, the dilemmas at hand, the consensus facts, etc. You’ll be armed with the information you need to make decisions on how to advance your society.

But as I immerse myself in this coverage, I’m starting to suspect it’s not so. I’m taking the most linear approach possible to following the news: reading years of relevant stories strung end-to-end in order. I should be the Platonic ideal of the well-informed citizen. Yet many vital questions remain unanswered.

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Topics: Media
124 words


Well -

Those assumptions 'were' wrong.

The information presented by news organizations isn't supposed to show you how to 'advance society.' Society does that on its own. Yes, some journalism is explicit, but that's not its only raison d'etre.

To learn the stories behind the coverage, you must often get involved yourself. You draw your own conclusions. There's a saying every reporter learns when they get into the business - it's "Show me, don't tell me." You show people an issue and let society do the work. Otherwise, you're dictating to them by proxy.

Even if you read widely and

Even if you read widely and deeply, you are still dependent on what someone else has chosen to write about. It's their choice, frame or meme and, whether due to lack of resources, lack of inclination and actively conspiring to keep the public confused and/or ignorant, the conventional media is on a downward spiral in terms of doing what we think it should be doing (investigating, analyzing and informing). Its raison-d'etre is selling advertising.

Our last real hope for engaged citizens to become informed is grassroots, user-supported, alternative media like this. Tapping into the many-hands-make-light-work 'wiki' approach is another.

We have the deeply flawed media and government that we do because we let it happen. We (collectively) didn't demand better; we're getting what we deserve.


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