Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Wounded Printed Page Strikes Back

Wesley Pruden at the Washington Times offers his take on print newspapers.

Fake news is everywhere, cluttering desktops, iPads, laptops, iPhones and all the other manifestations of the post-literate era when it’s just too much trouble to find a reliable read.

Who needs to read when there’s such an abundance of twits clogging up Twitterworld with the trivia, the trifling and the picayune — misinformation, usually the work of innocents, and disinformation, always the work of rogues spreading deliberate lies, exaggerations and confusion.

Farhad Manjoo, a technology correspondent for The New York Times, was tired of it all. Six months ago, he turned off all his digital news notifications, unplugged social networks, said goodbye to the cacophony and other noise of the news feed and took the radical step of subscribing to, of all things, three ink-on-paper newspapers and a weekly magazine.

He wanted to “slow-jam the news” but still wanted to know what was going on in the world. He was determined to find sources that furnished depth and prized accuracy over speed. It was an experiment, relying on print for news and not on “social media.” He learned several interesting things.

What he learned first was that the traditional formula taught to generations of cub reporters — the opening paragraph must answer the five W’s, who, what, why, when and where, and sometimes the how — is no longer in the curriculum. It’s now, he discovered, “more like a never-ending stream of commentary, one that does more to distort your understanding of the world than illuminate it.”

Commentary precedes and overpowers facts. The point of the story is often submerged in the 12th paragraph, sometimes deliberately so, where a reader may never see it because he gave up after the third paragraph. Relying on social media for the news, Mr. Manjoo learned, “is what other people are saying about the news rather than the news [itself] and that makes us susceptible to misinformation.”

Perhaps the most important thing he learned is that it takes time, and experience and willingness, to sort fact from fiction and a lot of “news” on the Internet has never been sorted out. “Smartphones and social networks are giving us facts about the news much faster than we can make sense of them, letting speculation and misinformation fill the gap.” He might have included disinformation, too, because disinformation, the deliberate fuzzing and invention of facts, is worst of all.

The sorting of fiction from facts, he discovered, “was the surprise blessing of the newspaper. I was getting the news a day old, but in the delay between when the news happened and when it showed up on my front door hundreds of professionals had done the hard work for me.”

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

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