Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Daily Me: truth, and that other thing

From a New York Times opinion piece by Nicholas D. Kristof, called The Daily Me*:

...the public is increasingly seeking its news not from mainstream television networks or ink-on-dead-trees but from grazing online.

When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about.

Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. has called this emerging news product The Daily Me. And if that’s the trend, God save us from ourselves.

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.

I can relate. While I still avoid media sources that employ ad hominem attacks, I'm working to develop more of a discerning filter that says, "Wait a minute, this sounds too good to be true" or "Now, where did you get those statistics?"

For the past couple of years, I've subscribed to, a non-partisan service that scrutinizes how political speeches and statements stand up to careful research and documentation. As a storyteller, I strive to find the truth in fiction. As a voter and a tax-payer, I really want just the facts, even if they don't coincide with what I wish were true.

*This article may require you to set up a New York Times profile account, which is free. If you don't want to go through the set-up process, email me off-blog and I'll email a copy of the article to you.


Lone Star Ma said...

This is interesting. I don't have the time I used to have for such things, but I am one of those people who sort of naturally loves research. It was more in my social work studies than anywhere else that I found that the research frequently supported things that were counter-intuitive to me and exceedingly counter to public policy and the ramblings of popular pundits. When I started spouting "research" though, no one cared - people do want to keep believing what they believe. I have spent many years thinking we could make enormous progress as a society if people only understood certain things, but have come to see that this is not necessarily the case - sigh. I don't really think the web has intensified this tendency all that much, though - TV and newspapers are just as biased as far as I can tell, if often less straightforward about it.

tanita s. davis said...

Especially after living here I am a big fact-checker. I find that the people I've met have very casual opinions about Americans, the Welsh, the English, and others -- based on things that are half-truths, prejudices, and basic misinformation. I realized that Americans employed many of the same "well, I read it on a website" types of mentalities, and I thought, "Oh, nooo! None for me, thanks!" Good points, all.

El JoPe Magnifico said...

Check out SpinSpotter.

Saints and Spinners said...

LSM: I'm a bit ashed to admit what I used as reference sources in my early college years-- but my college profs should have also said, "Wait a minute! That is not a reputable source."

Tanita: I know I found it a bit of a shock to hear those kinds of casual opinions from people who came from countries outside of the U.S. Oddly enough, I used to assume Americans were the ones with half-baked truths and everyone else was more enlightened. Ha! We're all in this together.

El Magnifico: Thanks! I will.

Jules at 7-Imp said...

The Daily Me. Yikes. But true.

Thanks for the reminder about FactCheck. I'd like to subscribe.

adrienne said...

One reason I tend to avoid the news is because I don't believe anything they report and don't have the energy to investigate everything I find suspicious. I like to try to observe things myself as much as possible. The downside is that I never know what's going on, but back when I put more time into following the news, I never felt like I *really* knew what was going on, either.

Beth Kephart said...

I don't think I look for things that confirm what I think but I know I've been dodging really awful news these past few months. Afraid of headlines, is how I've felt. I'm getting more courage, now, to return to the mainstream media....