Dangerous Media, part 2

I have talked about some of the dangerous aspects of main stream media in the past.  Recently I was reading The Black Swan, in which the author argues that watching TV news, listening to news on the radio, and even reading newspapers actually makes you less informed (and dangerously so) than if you were to tune out completely.

The argument goes that all media is biased, and if you watch, listen or read more, it simply enhances that bias while giving you a false sense that you are getting more information and different perspectives.  And since all of the one-to-many forms listed above have the same inherent biases and incentives, your confidence goes up without increasing your actual knowledge.  A lot of biased information and misinformation is worse than none at all.

While The Black Swan makes this point somewhat tangentially, Jeff Cohen brings home the point from the perspective of a former main stream journalist who was forced out for raising these very issues.

Not that I needed any more excuse to opt out of following main stream news, but the above examples and arguments have been enough to make me consciously avoid all network, cable and local television news, not read newspapers, and only listen to radio news as it comes up on NPR* between the shows that I like listening to.

The way I stay up on what’s going on in the world is via osmosis, internet news aggregators like Digg and Reddit, and a few selected forms such as 60 Minutes and The Daily Show (which actually does a great job of highlighting the bias, spin and manipulation coming from MSM).  I suspect I’m not alone in this shift.  I also realize that my mix is not perfect, especially when it comes to information about the world outside the U.S.  So, I’m wondering, how do others get their information about current events, and what are some sources and methods for becoming better informed about the world as a whole?

* NPR news isn’t any better than CNN, it’s only a matter of convenience that I listen to it at all.

  • Ben

    I agree that the mainstream media in general is atrocious. But I have to stand up and defend NPR. They may cover the same news stories as the rest of the media, but they are far better at delving into the complexities and providing the necessary context to understand these stories.

    Case in point: Tom Ashbrook’s show “On Point” yesterday covering Jeremiah Wright. Yes, it’s a shame that we have to talk about him in the first place, but show placed the incident in the larger context of American race relations, leading to a fascinating discussion of how things are changing and how they aren’t.

  • Well, I wasn’t necessarily talking about the shows, but rather the news updates. And yes, the shows are a bit better in talking about the nuances of whatever the topics are. But as you point out, what they are talking about is mostly the same stuff, with perhaps less celebrity gossip. To really be better, they should be introducing us to topics and parts of the world on a daily basis that you wouldn’t find discussed on CNN, for instance.