Who, What, Where, When, and Wise

By Postman, Neil | Editor & Publisher, May 8, 2000 | Go to article overview

Who, What, Where, When, and Wise


Postman, Neil, Editor & Publisher


Editors of the world, organize!

Newspapers should, for a start, get out of the information business and into the knowledge business. What do I mean by "knowledge"? I define knowledge as organized information -- information that is embedded in some context; information that has a purpose, that leads one to seek further information in order to understand something about the world. Without organized information, we may know something of the world, but very little about it. When one has knowledge, one knows how to make sense of information, knows how to relate information to one's life, and, especially, knows when information is irrelevant.

It is fairly obvious that some newspaper editors are aware of the distinction between information and knowledge, but not nearly enough of them. There are newspapers whose editors do not yet grasp that in a technological world, information is a problem, not a solution. They will tell us of things we already know about and will give little or no space to providing a sense of context or coherence. ...

[T]here is something ... newspapers must do for us in a technological age, and it has to do with the word "wisdom." I wish to suggest that it is time for newspapers to begin thinking of themselves as being not merely in the knowledge business but in the wisdom business as well. You may be inclined to think I am going too far. But I wish to define "wisdom" in a way that will make it appear to you entirely practical. I mean by wisdom the capacity to know what body of knowledge is relevant to the solution of significant problems. One can have a great deal of knowledge about the world but entirely lack wisdom. …

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