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New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof warns today in a piece titled The Daily Me of a possible problem with the way we consume news these days. Many people get their news via the Internet these days, of course, and web sites that serve up news allow one to customize their news feeds to a high degree. Thus, people naturally select news and commentary they want to see, and it's news that reflects views people hold.* The problem with that is, there is more news and commentary out there. Kristof points out that we tend to select news that agrees with what we already think. We therefore miss content that might be worth seeing but clashes with our views. It's one of the factors in the polarization of America. It used to be that, say, you'd talk with neighbors who didn't always agree with you on political issues; you'd learn something, you might change your mind, or you might understand your position better. Any of these might be good, and any of these might promote true consensus. Now, people tend to interact in like-minded "communities" that only reinforce what they already think. Maybe this is why conservatives are so scared of liberals, and vice versa.

With print newspapers falling on such hard times, and their demise widely predicted and even occurring (cf: Seattle Post-Intelligencer), we may be (probably are) losing a venue where a broader viewpoint was, in a way, forced upon us by professional writers and editors. It's increasingly up to us to select news, a role we've gladly taken on with pretty much no training such as what editors and publishers have. Kristof suggests it's up to us to choose wisely, and force ourselves to get the broad worldview that will benefit us in the long run.
*I'd add that we select news that's most interesting to us and probably less challenging. We no longer need to see even headlines of, say, world news, if all we want is entertainment or sports news. It's not just that we don't know what the other side thinks. We're not on a side at all, because we don't know what the story is, although we do know about Amy Winehouse's latest legal problems.

A late-in-the-week post! I haven't had one of those in forever....



( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 19th, 2009 09:06 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I can understand what you're saying. I can imagine that a lot of our beliefs on how things should work may be colored by misconceptions brought on by personal life experience and then sheltering within a small community of like-minded individuals that only cultivate that line of thinking even further. And then everyone has dug in their heels and they're not budging from their hard-line opinion.

It's worth looking around to figure out where some people are coming from to understand 'why' they think the way they think. This is especially true for people whose opinions are almost polar opposite from yours.

There are a LOT of people (in media and in real life) who I avoid because I honestly can't stand their opinions. But I still peek in on them from time to time because they're not 'evil'. They've just become very vocal about some issue or issues. Sometimes I even agree with something they say.
Mar. 20th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
I hate when someone who I dislike in the media or politics says something I agree with. Last week Mitch McConnell (senator from kentucky) said something I kind of agreed with. I had to wash my brain. :)

The problem is, there are a lot of talking heads who are not only saying things I disagree with, but saying them in the most abrasive and divisive way. They're not discussing, they're brow-beating and berating and ... bombasting (is that a word?). It's really hard to make oneself listen to them. I guess that means we should keep looking for people we can listen to but who still will challenge our entrenched opinions.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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