What Do We Want in Our News Media? July 15, 2016Posted by Peter Varhol in Publishing, Uncategorized.
Well, there is a loaded question if I ever heard one, especially during this interminably dragging election season in the US. News has changed greatly since my youth, I think somewhat for the better. I am old enough to remember Walter Cronkite (barely), and was a young adult with the likes of Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw. My newspapers consisted of the Beaver County Times and Pittsburgh Press. Print, of course, either picked up at the pharmacy or delivered in the vicinity of the door.
I am certainly familiar with all of the downsides of our current news delivery. A variety of delivery sources means that we can choose one that represents our point of view, reaffirming our world view and stunting our knowledge growth. And the proliferation of news outlets means that there is no time or money (and sometimes no inclination) for copy editing or fact checking, so we are engaged in a real-life rendition of “Believe It or Not”.
And the so-called newsrooms! At times it seems like the protagonists are more interested in bantering with each other rather than conveying information to their audience. Of course, that is largely the fault of their employers, who today view news delivery as a source of entertainment.
But let’s not forget the positives. We can get news as it is breaking, not on a network or newspaper schedule. I think that has awakened more people to their connection with the larger world around them. News is less filtered; let me explain that one. When half an hour at 6 or 11, or a daily newspaper, was our only way of getting news. Out of necessity, news was rationed; and we never knew who did the rationing. Who gave us our world view? I didn’t know it at the time, but of course it had to be.
The ability to select from multiple news sources gives us the ability to see the same event from different perspectives, giving us a more complete picture of events. I’ve appreciated the reporting of Al Jazeera, for example, because of the complete different take on a lot of Middle Eastern news. Not that one or the other is correct or incorrect, but rather it’s what they emphasize or downplay that is interesting.
I can’t speak for others, of course, but over the years perusing the Internet I’ve determined what I look for in news. For my needs, I have Felix Salmon to thank, for the period in which he blogged for Reuters. To be clear, I rarely agreed with anything Felix said. But his range of interests, and his ability to explain, meant that almost every day I learned something new. I don’t have to agree with his point of view in order to discover new things.
In the same vein, I would add Justin Fox and Barbara Kiviat, former Curious Capitalist columnists at Time magazine. Barbara in particular had a penchant for objectively looking at data, and could weave a story out of statistics like few others. The web publication Quartz also enthralls me, for its ability to go in depth in an incredibly wide variety of topics.