April 30th, 2005

New media and old

Dr. Sanity has some interesting commentary on a post by Wretchard about the influence of the new media–blogs and other alternative news sources–on our perceptions of truth.

I recommend both articles, but I wanted to add a few comments of my own on a related subject. This mulitiplication of sources of information, without the old authority bestowed by the credentials and reputation that used to be vested (rightly or wrongly) in the MSM, is often viewed by its critics as leading to more confusion and more disinformation. How, it is asked, is a person to know what truth is, when there are so many competing and unsubstantiated sources?

It’s not a bad point to make. But my answer is that we can only gain by the fact that the new media tends to be upfront about its biases. That means a person can now read from many sources on different sides of the issue, and then weigh the accounts accordingly, taking into consideration the point of view of the person writing. This is far better than pretending to have no bias when in fact there is one, a flaw of much old media, in my opinion.

Still another advantage of the proliferation of new media is the increased ease the reader has in referring back to original sources. If, for example, one reads in a particular newspaper a report of a speech or news conference given by a politician or other public figure, in the olden days it was much harder to check the original (unless the newspaper happened to publish the full text, which was rare) to see if the report was accurate. All of us were far more dependent on the press as a filter of information, and far less aware of how that filter often actually worked to distort such information, sometimes profoundly.

Now, all that stands in our way is time. It takes time and effort to be a newschecker, much more time and effort than most people have or are willing to give. There is always more to read, more to know.

So, understanding that our information is always incomplete, and that total truth can never be known, I salute the new media’s ability to let us get closer and closer to the best possible approximation of the truth. It’s a big improvement over what we had before.

12 Responses to “New media and old”

  1. neo-neocon Says:

    Ymarsakar–Just to clarify: I didn’t say that I myself believe that too many sources cause confusion, I wrote “This multiplicity of sources of information…is often viewed by its critics as leading to more confusion and more disinformation.”

  2. Ymarsakar Says:

    It is interesting that you would say that many sources of information provides confusion. Those that actually believe that, aren’t proponents of free speech since free speech at its core is the belief that people when confronted with multidutinous and conflicting accounts is able to sort through those accounts to the truth.

    People don’t and shouldn’t argue that listening to the Klu Klux Klan as well as Republican ideas of tolerance as well as Liberal ideas of tolerance in addition to the fake liberal ideas of tolerance, somehow is going to “confuse” people about which one is right.

    Their principles of action and truth, is betrayed in the very hint that they provide to us that they think too “many” sources produce an undesired “truth”. It may be undesired to them, but to those in love with liberty of self and of expression, varied accounts are harmonious and good.

  3. MargeinMI Says:

    Thanks for some great ‘one liner’ talking points I can use with my mom. Her POV is that the web is full of crazies and is unreliable as a news source. (She gets all her news from the Detroit Free Press and NPR, UGH!)

    We had a discussion at Easter re: Terri Schivo. She brought it up, little knowing I’d spent about 20 hours reading up on the web from MANY sources the previous week. WOW was she uninformed!!! I think I kind of blew her away with how much I knew about it compared to her. After my lengthly response to her original question, the conversation pretty much ended. Heh.

    I think I’ll send her a link here!

  4. Bookworm Says:

    John Leo has an excellent column about the fact that the MSM resolutely hides information from its readers that might lead them to understand better the bias driving a particular article. Your observations dovetail neatly with his point.

  5. Goesh Says:

    I find some very thoughtful, intelligent, enlightening commentary in Blogs such as this, not only from the authors, but the audience as well. These are Public forums that provide people a chance to express themselves and to vent if necessary. Yours is one of the better Blogs I have come across. Keep up the good work!

  6. Scorekeeper Says:

    Please read this and provide any comments to me if you have intimate knowledge of it, thanks.

  7. Scorekeeper Says:

    Please read this and provide any comments to me if you have intimate knowledge of it, thanks.

  8. Acad Ronin Says:

    The MSM make much of the notion that bloggers require no experience before they blog. Let me assure you that neither do reporters. I worked for some years in Tokyo as a macroeconomist for a major investment bank and often answered US reporters’ questions about the Japanese economy. The dominant impression I got was one of appalling ignorance. I spent much of my time when on the phone with them simply trying to teach the reporters basic economics and a little about the Japanese economy.

    As it happens, I am also a military veteran, and that has made aware of another area of journalistic ignorance: basic military facts such as ranks and organization. The errors I regularly see, that apparently survived the rigorous fact checking and editorial overview of which the MSM are proud, are tyro mistakes.

    By contrast, the bloggers that I follow for economics, law, military affairs, and biology, have impressive credentials (PhDs, JDs, appointments at top universities, or career experience) in their fields. The contrast could not be greater, to the detriment of the journalists.

  9. Paul Says:

    I distrust the forth estate at times, but we need a free press and we need to keep it honest!

  10. Anonymous Says:

    “Now, all that stands in our way is time. It takes time and effort to be a newschecker, much more time and effort that most people have or are willing to give. There is always more to read, more to know.”

    That is where blogs can be useful. We may not have the time to check the source, but some blogger with time on his hands will do so, and the word will spread.

    All we have really lost is our illusions that the MSM was giving us the truth. Anyone who has ever seen a news report of something they were personally involved in knows how inaccurate the MSM reports always were. We just had no independent basis for comparison for most of the stories, and had to trust them. That trust is gone for some of us, and blogs are providing the independent basis for comparison that we previously lacked.


    Excellent point about blogs making it easy to refer back to the original source. It’s a powerful tool. Before blogs, Rush showcased this method on the radio to the dismay of many public figures. Comparing past writings or speeches with comments made today (words vs. deeds) keeps them all on their toes. The old media will be hard pressed to match the flexability the new media has at its disposal. Maybe BLOGTV?

  12. Michael B Says:

    Well stated, a solid distillation of what is significant both as pertains to old and new media.

    Re, the MSM as old media, one need not throw out the baby with the bath water; one need not discard the workable infrastructure and the more thoughtful and responsible reportage and punditry along with the sclerotic, myopic and even prudish ideology.

    Similarly, re, new media, one need not accept everything that is available. Then again that’s precisely what new media is about, on-going critiques which help to curtail the poseurs and more blatant mistakes. The presumptive “authority” and accompanying poseurs of the old media is kaput.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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