If the press covers a tree falling in the forest but doesn’t provide a way for people to find it…

Recently, I wrote about the need for a type of journalism that provides context and background and explanations that compliment the traditional ways in which news is delivered to us through a time-stamped, “episodic” flow.

As I wrote then, “the types of content we call ‘news’ and ‘journalism’ and ‘posts’ and ‘tweets’ and ‘feeds’ do not necessarily work when readers/viewers/users are trying to gain understanding and insight related to the context of a story — and when the readers/viewers/users desire to gain understanding doesn’t synch with the time the news/post/tweet occurs.”

As I pointed out in that post, even thoughtful news reporters and analysts want to blame the reader for this gap in “wisdom provided” and “wisdom gained.”

I just ran across what I now believe to be the definitive example of how incredibly bright, but frustrated, journalists seem to miss the cause of this wisdom gap.

Harold Pollack of The New Republic last week wrote:

Press coverage of health care reform was the most careful, most thorough, and most effective reporting of any major story, ever. Throughout this past year, moderately informed and inquisitive readers could get more accurate information, more quickly, and more carefully-analyzed than one ever could before. I concede that one needed to know where to find this information…I don’t know how much of the resulting ignorance should be laid at the broader media’s doorstep. My judgmental half wants to apply the term “operator error” rather liberally here. If you read any of the top five or ten national newspapers or (often even better) their accompanying websites, you were only a few clicks away from a remarkable and free library of analysis and supporting information of remarkable depth and diversity. If people don’t look, there is only so much the media can do.

Wow. Read that last sentence again: If people don’t look, there is only so much the media can do.

I would agree with an edited version of that sentence: “There is only so much the media can do.”

Blaming people for not looking at the right place, or, worse, for not reading five or ten national newspapers and their accompanying websites, is the problem.

Accepting that this is not an operator problem, but a failure by media to innovate ways in which they can effectively provide context, will help move us in the right direction.

  • rbonini

    On the face of it, this makes sense.
    The fact of the matter is that people LIKE their ignorance. they are comfortable with it because it fits their ideology and worldview. Information to the contrary is simply viewed as disinformation.

    This, when you get down to it is a lack, of critical thinking.

    Where the information is is largely irrelevant since people will find and seek out these sources if they are motivated to do so.

    The media can (and some do), do their utmost. If people bathe in their ignorance and watch FOX news all day, and aren't motivated to pick the laptop up off the couch and do a simple google search there is quite literally nothing the MSM can do.

    As the old saying goes, you can talk a horse to water, but can;t make it drink.

  • rbonini

    On the face of it, this makes sense.
    The fact of the matter is that people LIKE their ignorance. they are comfortable with it because it fits their ideology and worldview. Information to the contrary is simply viewed as disinformation.

    This, when you get down to it is a lack, of critical thinking.

    Where the information is is largely irrelevant since people will find and seek out these sources if they are motivated to do so.

    The media can (and some do), do their utmost. If people bathe in their ignorance and watch FOX news all day, and aren't motivated to pick the laptop up off the couch and do a simple google search there is quite literally nothing the MSM can do.

    As the old saying goes, you can talk a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

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