Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Read all about it

They all, the young illustrators and the writers who gathered in the rooms in the evenings to talk—well, they all worked in newspaper offices or in advertising offices just as Bruce did. They pretended to despise what they were doing but kept on doing it just the same. “We have to eat,” they said.
Sherwood Anderson - Dark Laughter (1925)

Where does one go for a consistently reliable source of general news? I certainly haven’t found one. No doubt the answer is that there are no such sources, not in the sense that one or two may be relied on to the exclusion of all others. That is a sure route to misinformation.

As a chap who remembers reading a daily newspaper and who usually watched the evening news on TV, coming to terms with the unreliability of news sources is a lasting pleasure, because beneficial discoveries are pleasurable even when they come rather late in life.

The vast global range of modern news sources, our ability to compare different accounts of the same event with a few clicks - the importance of it all is so colossal we barely understand how it will affect our future. All we know is that one way or another it will. 

The endless prevalence of bias, exaggeration, guesswork and outright lies may be deplorable but to those of us who remember the old days these inherent flaws in human nature are also enlightening. News is generated for a purpose and that purpose is not altruism, never was. We know that now, better than we ever did before.

If there are no consistently reliable news sources, does it matter? Having so many of them allows us to compare one with another and assess uncertainties and possibilities instead of taking favoured sources as authoritative - as we used to do. Fringe news sources also give us a handle on wider possibilities and how important or unimportant the main stories of the day might be. So many events to choose from. Those which hit the headlines are not necessarily the most important.

In my case the expectation that one or two news sources should be sufficient is fading slowly. Forged by long habit and the long dominance of the BBC the slowness of it is hardly surprising but the change is certainly welcome.

As it becomes easier to assess the news from a sceptical standpoint, it becomes more likely that it will be assessed sceptically. The uncertainties behind mainstream narratives become more obvious, their bias clearer. The political mania for being seen to do something becomes more transparently self-serving. I like it.


wiggiatlarge said...

If there are no consistently reliable news sources, does it matter?

To a degree yes, the issuing of fake news or biased news in all it's means that a political party for instance can answer charges that they were wrong on something by quoting biased or fake news to prove the opposite.
In the past the news was indeed restricted to few outlets and often late to the front page, this could be construed to favor good analysis before publication or as happened a chance to fabricate a good lie, we can't really win can we ?

Demetrius said...

The Sunday Pictorial was very reliable. It rarely had any news at all.

Anonymous said...

A different interpretation of the facts is not a lie.

James Higham said...

I go to the Beeb for outline on anything new, then Telegraph, then to Twitter which has the real thing if it's new. Then Breitbart. That gives a rough idea. After that - blogs.

A K Haart said...

Wiggia - we can't win in the sense that we can't enforce honesty, but we can compare stories much more easily than in the past. That could turn out to be a much bigger win than it seems to be now.

Demetrius - I suppose many didn't want it, spoiled their day.

Roger - yes, that's why we need different interpretations. Many seem to know this but have no great wish to commit to the implications.

James - I often look at Google and Bing as a starter and take it from there.