Monday, March 13, 2006

Integrating news for a singular world

The notion of leading news continues to seem tenable. The fact that "more news media outlets are covering less news" relates to several kinds of developments: media market specialization relative to a proliferation of media, daily editorial equilibration (through wire mirrorplays) toward what the leading news is (tendencies toward consensus within the profession), and also regretable trends in the news business.

But the Project for Excellence in Journalism study referenced above ("more news...") evidently doesn't distinguish the differences. Finding that "Google News offers access within two clicks to 14,000 stories, but really they are accounts of just 24 news events" indicates only that there are lots of news outlets and a lot of consensus on quite a few stories in one day. That by itself doesn't exhibit exclusion of important stories. My local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, carries stories from several major sources, as well as having a large news gathering operation of its own, because no key source can originate all important stories, and my paper carries far more than 24 stories per day. (Yet, I basically rely on The New York Times every morning, Reuters throughout the day—other news sources during the week—and the PBS News Hour every evening). Point: If the citizen takes responsibility for ensuring that s/he's informed, s/he can be well-informed.

The Project's study showed that traditional media focus on immediately significant issues (tending toward short-term importance) while "the blogosphere...shrugged off most of the breaking news, focusing largely on broader, longer-term issues." So, it's not suggested that there is culpable bias in the media other than what inevitably belongs to any given medium. The fact that "bloggers raised new issues...[but] did almost no original reporting" accords with a broad-based media environment (bloggers aren't contesting what's news) with growing critical populism available to anyone with an Internet connection.

I like this: "Newspapers, which are the biggest news-gathering organizations, covered the most topics, provided the most extensive sourcing and provided the most angles on particular events, [the Project] said, 'though perhaps in language and sourcing tilted toward elites.'" One should note that the Internet presence of newspapers is rampantly growing, so that comprehensiveness belongs to the same enviornment as the rest of the targeted media. Who are the "elites," if not "The Influentials"? Educational activism increases that audience, while there's more than enough news accessible to the disengaged, if not dissociative, citizen.

Granted, "'More coverage...does not always mean greater diversity of voices." But in a rational society, not all voices are equally deserving of one's attention, in the simple sense that the an organization's representative and leading critics may be reasonably judged by the journalist to deserve coverage not given to the citizen on the street (covered by anecdotal local followups and polling). An unavoidable feature of popular sovereignty in democracy is that your vote doesn't require justification of your opinion. Both a "Pro-Choice" and a "Right to Life" advocate, both a "Creationist" and an "Evolutionist" garner whatever votes they can. But a journalist may be quite justified to seek the opinion of the spokespersons of these organizations, such that most journalists would rely on the same spokespersons.

Granted "consuming the news continuously does not mean being better informed," but it doesn't follow from that that one can't be well-informed via the news. What you have to do is follow the news diligently over time. I've found that there is a singularity to the news cycle related to the singularity of the planet, such that one can gain a sense of the singular evolutionarity of humanity in the diversity of its locales, interests, and perspectives concordant with there being an adequacy of the structure of the university covering the diversity of knowledge and practices related to all those locales, interests, and perspectives.

Though "reporters [may] be increasingly shunted off to an isolated area while covering events," no one is controlling reporter's investigative freedom beyond that which is normal for self-interested parties, which is itself a key theme of professional journalism, in the sense, for example, that the Freedom Of Information Act must be employed expertly to get the news from resistant sources. The struggle to track the leading news is at times like the struggle to make original discovery in science. It's an art, it's difficult, and it's expensive.