Magazine article Information Today

All the News Really Does Fit

Magazine article Information Today

All the News Really Does Fit

Article excerpt

The hallowed slogan of The New York Times, "All the News That's Fit to Print," has been riding the newspaper's banner since February 10, 1897, according to Facts About The New York Times (http://www.nytco.com/pdf-factbook/ Facts_About_NYT.pdf). Critics of the paper's editorial policies have often taken issue with what they believe is the arrogance implicit in that motto-i.e., We know what news you should be reading.

Until the rise of the World Wide Web there was no practical recourse for the average person who disagreed with something in the newspaper, save writing a letter to the editor that might get published but probably would not. Even Mark Twain was perceptive enough to advise, "Never pick a fight with a man who buys his ink by the barrel

Now, of course, anyone with an Internet account and a bit of free Web space can vent to his or her heart's content about what does or does not appear in The New York Times or any other media outlet. With the rise of Web logs and free/inexpensive tools to create and maintain them (http://hotwired.lycos.com/ webmonkey/02/18/index3a.html), it's no longer even necessary to know how to code a Web page in order to get your digital point across to the world at large. And it's quite likely that if Mark Twain were alive today, he'd be running his own blog.

Times have not been good of late for print, broadcast, and electronic media. As a direct result of the sluggish economy, advertising revenues have been slumping badly (which is why your Internet Waves columnist went on the dole this past summer). But dead-tree newspapers in particular have been declining in readership for years, especially among young people, many of whom naturally turn to the Internet for the latest scoop. My older son (who is 19) is probably typical. He rarely reads the daily newspaper, except for the comics, the sports section, and the weekend tabloid insert that delineates local events and activities. That's not to say he doesn't follow current affairs. He spends a decent amount of time surfing news Web sites, clicking his way through The New York Times (http://www.nytimes .com), The Guardian (http://www.guardian .co.uk), Yahoo! News (http://news.yahoo .com), CNN (http://www.cnn.com), and interestingly, Ha'aretz (http://www.haaretz daily.com), an Israeli daily newspaper that's one of his current favorites.

Part of the joy of online news is the ability to easily access a variety of sources. I grew up in a family of skeptics who warned me repeatedly not to rely on a single source of information. As librarians, of course, we are professionally aware of how critical that is. If you have a broadband, on-all-the-- time Internet connection, you tend to dip into the Web more frequently to keep up with breaking news and read more about events that catch your interest. According to a report released in June by the Pew Internet & American Life Project ("The Broadband Difference: How Online Americans' Behavior Changes with High-Speed Internet Connections at Home"; http://www .pewinternet.org/reports/toc.asp?Report= 63), 46 percent of those with a broadband connection at home go online for news at least once a day (as opposed to 26 percent of dial-up users). In fact, says the report, looking for news is the second most popular online activity among Internet users. Only e-mail is more popular.

The Pew report also found (not surprisingly) that broadband users are more frequent creators and posters of online content. This certainly increases the number of unique voices out there, but underscores in a tangible way how critical information literacy has become. It's great to be able to get news and information other than the pasteurized, homogenized content supplied by Big Media. On the other hand, we all know what can happen when we drink unpasteurized milk.

'Epidemic of Shallow Thinking'

Alas, the widespread availability of broadband Internet connections, especially in colleges and universities, is responsible for what most information professionals would agree is a disturbing trend. …

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