New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof warns today in a piece titled The Daily Me of a possible problem with the way we consume news these days. Many people get their news via the Internet these days, of course, and web sites that serve up news allow one to customize their news feeds to a high degree. Thus, people naturally select news and commentary they want to see, and it’s news that reflects views people hold.* The problem with that is, there is more news and commentary out there. Kristof points out that we tend to select news that agrees with what we already think. We therefore miss content that might be worth seeing but clashes with our views. It’s one of the factors in the polarization of America. It used to be that, say, you’d talk with neighbors who didn’t always agree with you on political issues; you’d learn something, you might change your mind, or you might understand your position better. Any of these might be good, and any of these might promote true consensus. Now, people tend to interact in like-minded “communities” that only reinforce what they already think. Maybe this is why conservatives are so scared of liberals, and vice versa.
With print newspapers falling on such hard times, and their demise widely predicted and even occurring (cf: Seattle Post-Intelligencer), we may be (probably are) losing a venue where a broader viewpoint was, in a way, forced upon us by professional writers and editors. It’s increasingly up to us to select news, a role we’ve gladly taken on with pretty much no training such as what editors and publishers have. Kristof suggests it’s up to us to choose wisely, and force ourselves to get the broad worldview that will benefit us in the long run.
*I’d add that we select news that’s most interesting to us and probably less challenging. We no longer need to see even headlines of, say, world news, if all we want is entertainment or sports news. It’s not just that we don’t know what the other side thinks. We’re not on a side at all, because we don’t know what the story is, although we do know about Amy Winehouse’s latest legal problems.
A late-in-the-week post! I haven’t had one of those in forever….