Sunday, March 22, 2009

On the death of newspapers

Last week was busy and this week we're on the road, so blogging is light.

Nick Kristof had a good thought last week. The death of newspapers means that people simply choose what sources they want to get news from, and most people will choose sources that line up with their world view or opinions. Just as we see neighborhoods, churches, and entire counties segregated by income, class, and political party, the death of newspapers simply leads to more segregation in news reception. Rather than have all those demographics united by a common news source, everyone will seek news that tickles their ears the most.

That’s because there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information — but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber...

The decline of traditional news media will accelerate the rise of The Daily Me, and we’ll be irritated less by what we read and find our wisdom confirmed more often. The danger is that this self-selected “news” acts as a narcotic, lulling us into a self-confident stupor through which we will perceive in blacks and whites a world that typically unfolds in grays.

So, he challenges us to read opposing views. Republicans watch some CNN, liberals read some Wall Street Journal.

I try to do this as much as I can through my blog subscriptions, drinking my fill of liberals and conservatives alike. One of my colleagues noticed that most of the articles I forward or link for my students to read come from the NY Times, a traditionally liberal newspaper that some won't read just because they assume it's biased. This probably irks the ire of some, as does when I say I watch PBS NewsHour. (Even though I find a lot of good reporting and balance in both outlets, or else I wouldn't tune in).

If you're only getting one point of view, then you're going to be left angry and often looking foolish.

I force myself to read some well-written religion-related blogs that I don't often agree with the authors of. I do that to try and understand what they're thinking, and to allow them to challenge my own thinking-- sometimes I change my mind. Same thing in reading foreign blogs. Blogs on Russia are typically either pro-Kremlin or anti-Kremlin, and so I want to try and find the middle ground by reading both types.

The middle ground is out there (and the Truth is likely close to it) but will we take the time to search for it if it's not being delivered to our doorsteps every morning?

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