I've been able to direct my focus and energy to much more productive tasks since I disconnected. Of course I entirely missed that whole Supreme Court thing until after it was over, and I have no idea what people around me are talking about when they discuss some iteration of the most recent outrage. To some extent it's like they're living in a different culture than I am. I still feel that it was a good decision, and I continue to ignore the news.
I might come back if enough journalism sources can take the New Yorker's suggestion to heart.
My life is so much better since cutting out the news. I am happier, more focused and able to actually concentrate on the things that I care about.
I prefer to think about how I can positively impact people around me and my local community, rather than embracing the culture of outrage about things happening thousands of miles away that are ultimately irrelevant.
You're on HN. Which means you get your daily dose of "outrage porn" like anyone else. I think many people don't think of HN as, basically, a "News" site. With a large percentage of the front page dedicated to "outrage porn". "Big Tech Helping China." "US Workers Highly Taxed." Etc etc etc. And those are just the more, kind of, moderate examples. I think yesterday's: "San Francisco's Slow Motion Suicide" was an example that went a bit further. And there have been discussions on here that just tend to devolve into extremism relatively quickly. (I guess the San Fran post from yesterday devolved into extremism relatively quickly as well. But I suppose I'm talking about discussions that tend to devolve right away.)
At any rate, yeah, if we're on HN, we can't realistically claim to have sworn off news, or "outrage porn". We're just, kind of, comfortable with the "outrage porn" that we get from Hacker News. So much so that some of us, apparently, don't even recognize it as news, or "outrage porn".
Ultimately when people say they've dropped out of a specific news bubble: that means they've just started ignoring things that don't personally affect them or they don't care about. It's essentially as another commentator said meant that you're in favor of the status quo, which means you shouldn't be surprised if you encounter someone who is negatively affected by the status quo and calls you out on being OK with it.
It's difficult to tell, because the front page of BBC has so many more articles on it than the front page of HN, but the "outrage porn" proportion seems about equal to me. Right around 1/4 or 1/5 of the articles I would classify that way. Seems about the same as HN.
Just for context, at the moment on HN, I'd say these are the "news"-y and "outrage porn"-y posts on the front page.
"Amazon Workers Are Listening To What You Tell Alexa" - Obligatory "outrage porn" post for FAANG company. (Generally a minimum of one is always present on the front page.)
"Urgent Quest For Slower, Better News"
"Most Prestigious Journals Publishing Least Reliable Science"
"New Human Species Found In Philippines" - (Predictable descent into extreme views on evolution. No more "Out of Africa", all that "scientific evidence" stuff is nonsense.)
"Startup Stock Options - Good Deal Gone Bad"
"Logic of Political Survival"
And that doesn't even count the posts on the front page that are borderline.
Second, unlike other news sources, HN tends to have moderate to high quality discussion. I come to HN because I tend to learn things and grow here. That's not to say that it's perfect of course, but I think you're being more than a bit dishonest when you compare HN to mainstream media news.
HN is a aggregator of (mainstream) media news. It is in a position where it should be able to achieve a better ratio between clickbait and non-clickbait than others. Parent suggested it doesn't. I agree. Huston, we have a problem.
Am I outraged over the fact? Not at all. Because I do not expect HN to be better than mainstream. And in fact it isn't. HN is just a different pie.
It's not supposed to be an aggregator of mainstream news. Unfortunatley, it has become that.
I firmly oppose to this view. What you are perceiving as "moderate to high quality" is actually just the suppression of mean words, that is good by itself but does not equate to the quality.
I too classify about one fifth of the HN front page as "outrage porns"; they tend to be visibly biased and their discussions are significantly worse in my humble opinion. For that portion of HN I believe they are no better than the mainstream media. If you want remaining four fifths, good! But you have to learn to filter the problematic fifth out.
If you completely disconnect you have no data with which to make your decisions come election time. A lot of what’s happening in politics does affect you directly. Changes to tax code, the budget, deregulation of industries (e.g. net neutrality).
And some of it may not affect you directly but affects people in the communities you live in. A Supreme Court nominee had allegations of sexual assault and gambling problems brought against him. Regardless of what you believe, it behooves you to be aware that this is happening. If the accusations were true don’t you want to know? It affects the women in your life to have someone like that be given a lifelong appointment to the most powerful court of the land. If the accusations weren’t, wouldn’t that be important too?
If you’re taking a break to maintain sanity I can understand that. But if you’re simply shrugging your shoulders at what’s happening simply because it doesn’t affect you right now—and trust me, some of the policies this administration is adopting are having a big impact on some—then I think that’s a pretty shitty, selfish attitude to have.
This example is exactly why someone should ignore the news. This was pure partisan bickering and mud slinging. Not once during the whole episode were Kavanaugh's actual positions discussed. Just rumors, gossip, fighting and soundbites. No one came out ahead paying attention to this story.
Why blow it all on generating outrage when it'll just get manipulated into a bottom third talking point?
A better example would be news that brings X to attention, so you can voice concern to the government. Or in the case where politicians are the focus of attention, it can affect your voting choice.
E.g. the internet filter law proposal in Europe. It's not practical for me to review every individual piece of legislation, so I rely on journalists/news platforms to highlight the important bits. As a consequence of the MEP vote I have now blacklisted one political party I considered moderate before. They will never get a vote or a good word from me again, ever.
Other examples you could have mentioned are stuff like the Panama papers and Wikileaks. If I heard a local construction company was funneling money to tax havens, I'd email my municipality and/or IRS.
I think the bigger thing is that it is a TORRENT that overwhelms.
What you want to be reading is aggregate analysis, and quality articles of that kind are found on sites which mostly avoid feeding you the other bullshit. Publications like Economist, Atlantic, Politico, etc.
Nothing has happened in the last 10 years to change who I vote for. And this is the same for the majority of people.
I understand the US doesn't have a lot of choice on the ballot, political news is highly polarized and latest/developing news is probably not worth following. But somewhat keeping up with what your government does so you can hold it accountable seems like a civic duty to me. And what better way to do this than news?
That is not at all true. Sure there may only be two parties with one candidate each on the national level (assuming you don't get involved with the primaries), but in the US a lot more local positions are elected (which in many ways have a much greater effect on your day to day life) and local referendums (or ballot initiatives) are very common.
Ballot measures only address a small subset of policies, and they don't exist in many places. From what I understand making a 360 turn on them after being elected isn't uncommon either.
So your 'informed' decision is probably just as biased as someone who bases their decision on news.
I'm not really sure what point you're trying to make. Are you saying nobody can ever know enough to vote responsibly?
Given that, isn't (local) news still relevant?
There's a secondary value to news (or rather primary, in terms of value delivered) - social objects. Most people know what's currently on the news, so even though the raw information value is near-zero, it becomes a great conversation starter.
Then there are shock-news stories like violent crime. How is it relevant to know some kid from my street stabbed another kid over a pack of gum? If I want to know how safe my area is I'd look at crime statistics collected over years and compare it to other areas.
I prefer to read specific things to stay in the loop and I see it as a responsibility to be aware of things as my position in our society allows me to do so.
Save your outrage for things you have first hand knowledge of or knowledge of through trusted contacts.
The world did ok before 24/7 news, so it's not like you, king of the world, need to be up to the minute informed on whatever thing you're supposed to take your outrage vengence upon today.
I think this is a case of these people realizing that they cannot change the world in such a way to solve each and every problem that is presented to them in the news. As such, they choose to focus on their own personal lives and they people they come across in their day to day lives.
I hope this helps. It's not that they just don't care, it's that caring is damaging their psyche and performance. They've learned it's healthier to tune most of that noise out.
I'm not sure what whimsical platitudes that essentially absolve you of your civic duty have to do with this conversation, or how it could possibly negate anything that was said.
>I hope this helps.
No it just solidifies what I think about the type of people that harbor such opinions.
What about that? Coming upon news where you can make a difference right now, by sending money to NGOs with workers on the ground.
Say there is a situation that Alfred have the power to effect. To reliably cause change for the good Alfred must:
(1) Identify a problem and its root cause
(2) Change the root cause
(3) Confirm that the problem is solved.
There are people who claim you can leap straight to (2) and skip (3). These are people who (if they ever honestly checked) would discover that they are not responsible for very much positive, meaningful change. They are flailing, looking busy and have the best of intentions.
For anything reported in the news step (1) represents a huge investment of time because the news has probably got the situation at least somewhat wrong. To say Alfred has a moral responsibility to do something is equivalent to saying Alfred has a moral responsibility not to read the news; because Alfred doesn't have enough time or resources to confirm what the problem is for all the sad stories he can read about.
In your specific example - 'sending money to NGOs with workers on the ground' - Alfred would probably divert a lot of money to organisations who are good at emotive advertising campaigns with administrative costs verging on embezzlement. We have good historical evidence that Alfred's best bet is to go all-in on capitalism, make a fortune, and then do some philanthropy to maximise his impact.
Giving to a worthy cause creates incentives that are terrible. I can't be convinced that it is a good idea. I have a lot more respect for people who volunteer time, but even then I'm suspect of their ability to correctly diagnose the problem they are trying to fix.
The term 'root cause' is problematic because it assumes a simplistic cause-effect model. However, a problem may be the consequence of a complex 'chain reaction' of events. Most charities identify a single event leading up to a problem and focus on eliminating/mitigating that.
E.g. a problem is: people in country X dying unnaturally every year. The immediate cause is starvation, which is indirectly caused by famine as a result of multiple factors like poor farming technology and government policy. There is no 'root cause', and attempting to solve the farming problem might be much less resource efficient harder than just providing emergency rations every year.
Another problem with your wording is 'change for the good'. If famine death is reduced by 100 deaths for each 1000USD donated, is this a 'change'? Or would Alfred only take action if it would possibly result in entirely stopping the deaths 100%?
I agree with your point about incentives in philanthropy though, there are some organizations that do a better job than others about that.
And if a person is improving their community by their conduct, they recieve their information through direct interaction, rendering news irrelevant.
I volunteer lots of my time with various organizations and I didn't need anyone in the news media to tell me that what I'ma doing is important and valuable.
For example, I don't get upset when a plane crashes or there's a mass shooting. I can imagine myself in the position of the victims. I can imagine if someone I loved died in a situation like that and I can simulate some of the grief and anger I think I'd feel. But that exercise seems sort of selfish to me. In general, these kind of tragic events don't affect my mood.
I do sometimes experience this kind of empathy when I'm reading history or a human-interest story about some tragic or unfair situation.
It seems to me that many people assume that all good behavior flows from empathy. I don't think this is true. I use various philosophical viewpoints to justify (or rationalize) my behavior: sometimes utilitarianism, sometimes the categorical imperative, and often a vague sort of humanism.
Let’s consider starting from this standpoint instead: Everyone has differing levels of empathy and it’s not going to be the same for every person. Despite this, we all need to get along and work towards whatever our individual goals are peacefully.
Given this vast spectrum of empathy, advice from the extreme edges of that spectrum (“just tune out all news 100%” on one end, “cry for every single suffering being everywhere” on the other end) is particularly useless, because the only reason this situation even exists in the first place is because of extremism / polarization.
Where do we go from here?
Anyone on Hacker News, has not "stopped reading the news".
Maybe they stopped looking at the FOX news website? Or maybe they stopped looking at the CNN website? Or what have you. But they consume a lot of news every day. The reality is that a very large percentage of the front page of HN is political type stuff:
"US Workers Are Highly Taxed If You Count Premiums"
Or stuff intended to trigger discussions of political type stuff:
"Big Tech Helps China Censor People"
etc, etc etc.
There is a lot of negative, outrage focused, news on HN.
And, no, I did not read TFA ;-). I was just curious if anyone had comments on finding slower, better news.
“This horrible thing happened somewhere that has no bearing on your life!”
That’s the kind of “news” I try to avoid.
The dirty little (open) secret of US politics: nothing, nothing an individual does really matters unless they put in tons of time (time doing things, not reading Twitter), tons of money, or both. And even then it's a crapshoot unless you've got serious cash.
Less true at a very local level. Definitely true of anything past the county level or so.
I think it's pretty safe to assume that he's the one benefitting the most from the lack of fact checking.
Not safe at all. (Covington Kids, for one thing.) The groupthink among the left-leaning media, particularly the news, is pretty egregious. The degree to which they communicate with each other using electronic networks and create their thought bubbles is well documented at this point. If you "follow the money," to figure out who benefits, then it turns out, it's Far Left activists who benefit by getting to push their agenda and set the narratives. This even results in monetary benefit through fundraising.
That's what I meant by "benefitting the most". You might dismiss it as the left-leaning media you mentioned, but this should be a good starting point to keep track of Trump's false claims: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/trump-claim...
But I also don't need journalists to be brain-washing people by suggesting different ways of sharing the costs (insurance? single payer? have rich people pay for me?). The real solution is, of course, to lower the cost to the levels comparable to EU countries, but the costs are rarely discussed in the mass media, only cost sharing is brought up. Why? Because it's an unpopular solution among people who set the agenda. Fixing health care (i.e. halving its cost _at the very least_) means dropping US GDP by a whopping 9% .
So it's not about slow vs fast news. It's about controlling the public discourse. The old system of setting the national agenda  is obviously not working well if a populist with a Twitter account can override the MSM narrative and get himself elected.
Healthcare is really too big and broad of an issue to really highlight what I am saying here. There is no way not to at least be aware of it if not interact with it and it has been one of the biggest political issues in this country for decades. However you can take a look at certain pieces of that to see my point.
For example, a tiny minority of people reading this have any reason to know the price of a month's supply of insulin is over $450 or that 1 in 4 people with diabetes are rationing themselves insulin in order to afford the drug. But more and more news stories are highlighting this issue which is leading to political pressure to address it. Just today there was a congressional hearing on the subject. I have no idea if something will be done to reduce the costs of insulin, but I know the price wouldn't go down if people just ignored every news story about it.
> I don't know what you are intending to mean with your first point.
> Yes, you can change a word in my comment to a word with a different
> meaning and it will change the meaning of what I said.
> That doesn't mean what I said isn't true.
Maybe, but what are the odds of that vs. being kept in a state of aloof hypocognition that reinforces the status quo though?
Without hearing of disasters or San Franciscan homeless slums from the news, I'd barely know about them because I don't go out of my way to research things like that -- the time and interest isn't there. Left entirely to my own perspective, the biggest problems in the world are the ones I'm facing -- usually programming or computing related.
I was going to point out that this makes the assumption that they're consuming corporate social media, but we're on HN so I suppose that's implied.
I should probably delete this account too.
I've never seen anyone argue that this elite vs the rest pickpocketing isn't actually happening and (what we call) the culture war is the real battle.
It would be helpful if there was, because then I could try to understand the mindset behind the dismissal of our view— it's driving me crazy.
After all, they can understand fellow addicts on the other side.
Would you please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and follow the rules when posting to HN from now on?
God forbid people have the freedom to have cognitive peace, quiet, contemplation, and free play.
If anything, the "disadvantaged" have more to gain from disengaging from constant cognitive hijacking!
Please edit personal swipes out of your posts here. Your comment would be fine without that first sentence.
I mean, that would quickly lead to change alright, but it’s also why a lot of people are invested in making sure that never happens.
I am really hoping that one day we can somehow arrive at clean useful and possibly actionable news streams which balance issues and positive/celebratory information.
Today’s news large outlets create anxiety rage and suffering and serve as a tool for separation and propaganda. This experience is extremely toxic and one needs to exercise high level of discipline and often sacrifice well being in order to stay informed.
Just because someone was born into privilege does not mean they can’t have opinions or that those opinions are incorrect.
I also think ignoring the news has nothing to do with privilege. So, you’re saying that if I did not have privilege then somehow reading the news is going to change anything?
99% of “news” is absolute garbage and a distraction from actual issues.
But I'd argue the worst position is one of non-stop media bingeing without action. In fact, I'd say the only way to act reliably or with clear intention is to not binge on media, to not stay in the zone of manufactured outrage. But instead to keep sanely abreast of what's happening and engage only when meaningful action can be had.
I've had to use the analogy to people how weird it appears. It's like everyone talks about a blue cat one day, and the next day talk about a red cat. Everywhere you go everyone talks about the same colored cat's.
I don't know if this is what you intended, but I'm reading this as "many or most people who ignore the news are privileged". For instance, this would include many people who are at a 7th grade reading level.
I'm... not sure that's what you meant to insinuate though. Could you clarify?
that's why politics before the rise of the internet were much more formal, people remembered what was done and said.
now there is just so much noise it's very hard to distinguish the signal, which leads to people being influenced and directed into "identity politics" (are you yellow or green, blue or red, left or right, good or bad?)
Like disadvantaged people are gonna read something in the NYT and then successfully lobby their congressman to change it?
Serenity to accept what you can't change is absolutely the most effective strategy for those who don't have the means to change things. Worry about your family first, work within the constraints you have. That's reality for a lot of people. I'd argue it's 'privileged' to think otherwise.
Best I can come up with is "hope your kids don't get sick", followed by "ignore calls from debt collectors on that emergency room bill".
Reading the news obsessively and buying into the culture war actually does nothing to make those strategies more effective. Just saps energy that could be spent elsewhere.
Edit: To get on my soapbox a bit here, I think people are being a bit black and white as usual. Yea, you don't need to read every political opinion piece by Fox, CNN and NYT, but you also should read more than exactly zero. Neither of these extremes can possibly be optimal for everyone (or anyone probably). HN really likes the narrative "Title: X is problematic and we should fix it. Top Comment: Well I completely stopped X because it was bad for me and now everything is awesome and I'm a 10x dev!" but it's never really that simple.
For instance Chicago has been exclusively under one party's exclusive control for going on 90 years now. And so this party has had decades to carry out whatever grand vision they could ever imagine for the city. So we'd expect to see what this grand vision would culminate in. And we see a city with a broken school system, rampant crime, tremendous financial problems, horrible inequity, and that is just in general - broken.
Yet the people keep voting for the exact same party and general ideologies. It's just not logical, but it's how most people operate on most topics. They pick a conclusion they want to be true, and then find evidence to support it, instead of examining the evidence to come to the most reasonable conclusion. Perhaps in large part because the latter process often yields conclusion that we very much don't want to be true.
Also, most people’s personal issues trump any macro issue by far. You can change your status quo. It’s almost impossible for an individual to change the status quo and definitely not through typical political engagement.
I am sorry, but that is just depressing if you believe something like that. The ACA is one thing that comes to mind. Improving healthcare for Americans would have a much bigger impact on people's lives than giving people who already own a home a way to make a little extra money.
The status quo is a political arrangement. It's just a way of referring to the state of power's distribution across institutions and people. That's political.
There is literally, definitionally nothing apolitical that affects the status quo.
Changing the status quo is--inescapably, apodictically--political.
Uber and AirBnB are highly political institutions.
When people talk about politics they’re almost always talking about interfacing with the government. Taking an Uber is definitely not a political statement in most people’s minds.
Ignoring nth-order consequences doesn't make them go away.
"Don't be snarky."
I'd go further and say if you're doing it just so you can give a hot take on politics to someone nearby, or have your opinions validated by them then also stop doing that (it's hard) and be mindful that whoever they are may actually disagree with you but isn't interested in having their views criticised as a part of someone's entertainment schedule or to be lectured too.
That's the job of a reporter. Not knowing everything, but being willing to do the legwork to find people with firsthand knowledge of things, and then relating what they have to say. That's why we call journalism "the first draft of history", and not the textbook of history.
Like every profession, journalism has limitations and is itself practiced with varying degrees of success. We're fond of Crichton's "Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect" on HN, but ignore the Djikstra Amnesia Effect, holding journalists to a standard we rarely achieve in our own profession, where our own errors routinely cause direct harm to people through ignorance and omissions.
(Someone on HN changed my mind recently by pointing out that, while judges sometimes invoke history, they are generally bad historians. It was a thought provoking assertion, because it’s not uncommon for judges to justify opinions by reference to economics or social science. But they have neither the training nor time and procedural flexibility to do a good job of such analysis. My conclusion was, therefore, that such analysis simply isn’t useful. I think journalism might suffer from the same problem.)
But then, there's also a 4th amnesia (so many amnesiae!), a reverse Gell-Mann, where we forget all the incontrovertibly good journalism; for instance, John Carreyrou brought Theranos down, despite any personal expertise with phlebotomy, just through the power of bird-dogging primary sources.
I highly doubt that the average article even in prestigious news organizations (e.g. NYT, NPR, The Atlantic) goes through that level or rigor, given how frequently they cite provably false information. The overwhelming majority of the news articles I read, even from preeminent news outlets, amounts to summarizing a story that a different outlet broke. Often with several layers of indirection. I've seen plenty of stories about things posted on social media, and the author of the news articles doesn't even bother to link to the primary source. The latter is especially pernicious, it signals to me that the authors wants me to take their words at face value and not facilitate me viewing the relevant information and forming my own opinion.
If you were attempting a border crossing into the US with children, would the news influence your approach?
I am hyper political and have done some policy work. The people I know who get things done ignore the outrage factory.
Corporate media is a distraction. Like sports talk shows, today's political coverage is just entertainment.
Or simply support the status quo privledge over alternate privilege?
Did I win?
Take two people who both go to Burning Man instead of changing some kid’s life in Bangladesh. A reads the news and votes for X out of concern for some disadvantaged group. B doesn’t read the news and votes for Y because he doesn’t perceive the struggles of that disadvantaged group. Notwithstanding that difference, radius of empathy of A and B are almost the same. Both exclude the majority of those suffering in the world—billions of people—from their radius of empathy, not caring enough even to give up a frivolity for themselves. Excessive moralizing over that small difference is indeed rather hypocritical.
 The moral rabbit hole here runs very deep. For example, all else being equal, buying an ICE car hurts people in Bangladesh who will suffer the most from rising sea level due to global warming. But at the margin, taking the extra money you’d spend on a new electric car and just giving it to some kid in Bangladesh will do more good than the incremental environmental benefit from buying that electric car.
No more of this please, especially since we've hard to warn you multiple times in the past.
I'm going go out on a limb and guess that you don't just want people to read news, you want them to read news you approve of.
Truly "disadvantaged" people have little to win from any sort of politics and have little time for it. I don't think hobos give a lot of thought to the supreme court.
I really like the Patreon model, I give to 20+ different Youtubers and writers because I hate what advertisers and corporations have done to modern day media, making it all about eyeballs instead of education.
I had a similar reaction reading Aaron Swartz's post on why he hates the news. I'm sure Thoreau would have had the same view of the news in his time. Sure, you are unquestionably better off and probably happier learning Japanese or PDE instead of the daily newspaper. But it still has an important function.
I've seen my colleagues go through the most anguishing emotional roller coaster over the the last 3 months with the brexit madness. I've seen emotions run high, I've seen the highs and lows. Everyone is stressed and I'm blissfully content.
I'm yet to experience a life altering impact from skipping the news.
But I have also stopped reading/watching/hearing news. When election time comes, I will read the laws being proposed, do some google search and pick a candidate or yay/nay a proposition (I live in California).
Just step back and reconsider what 'news' is trying to tell you from a 3rd person view. Ultimately you are being manipulated, imho. To vote for a candidate and/or clicks so that ads can be sold.
Just check this book out. Or at least read reviews of the book.
> How the News Makes Us Dumb: The Death of Wisdom in an Information Society Paperback – March 17, 1999 by C. John Sommerville (Author)
In general, I try to understand their underlying values by reading discussions and previous news items. I vote based on values, not legislation snapshots.
And you can get the value each group advocating yah/nay also.
Same with candidates for elected positions.
No average voter can read all proposed laws and hope to understand it. And most definitely no news articles can help anyone to do so imho.
I'd gladly pay a slight premium for news content that's completely politically neutral. I long for the good old days where you couldn't tell where the news presenter fell on the political scale.
That said, I don't know that I'd actually read it, since most news strikes me as obscenely polemical, even when it feigns objectivity. Even the New York Times rubs me the wrong way in this regard.
However, it's his words as a commentator in this video which I find the most informative.
If the purpose of news is to disseminate useful information then it has failed. It's now about opinion, entertainment, advertising and maximising engagement (usually by getting people pissed off because misery loves company).
There was a recent story in the UK about a young man from the North West who plotted to murder an MP, who also happened to be a paedophile and a white supremacist (according to reports). Most of the news is a dramatic retelling of how a young kid could get to that point so soon. Our national broadcaster, the BBC, gave him the gift of notoriety and I can't imagine what that has done to his ego except to say he was right.
That isn't news, it's fetishising a burgeoning problem in our politics and titillating readers.
Upskirting celebrities getting out of cars and getting sly bikini shots from a telescopic lens somehow has more priority over proper investigative journalism that can have a positive, legal outcome.
In a more simplistic way, we revel in the pain of other people.
The use of smartphones has demonstrated, I believe, that people will blindly chase their dopamine hits coming from a variety of formats because it is ingrained in human nature. The dopamine reward pathway gives a good feeling and people are naturally inclined to follow the path of least resistance to more hits. If an organization or app tries to fight this, then people will simply use it less. People will naturally gravitate towards (thus pushing the market towards) easy methods of getting a little dopamine rush.
The consumption of fast and frequent journalism is just a symptom of human nature and I have my doubts that there will be a unilateral disarmament by apps and companies to use such tools.
I personally try to recognize this and cut myself short when i keep scrolling, keep refreshing on my phone, etc. However, I am not that good at stopping myself and I am aware of when I do it and work on it. What about people who are unaware of their habits? Looking down at your phone and refreshing likely has become second nature for billions of people.
How can industries fight against this human nature?
(I did not cite any sources I know, if I'm dead wrong on any points please let me know!)
The way this has been resolved in the past, is that the "trash" news is relegated to the riffraff, and more reliable sources of news are used by the wealthy. The problem, is that even the mainstream news was of the trashy click-bait variety, even in the past going back many decades, if not hundreds of years. Even the news sources that are supposed to be higher end will succumb to the greater speed and greatly accelerated news cycle.
How can industries fight against this human nature?
Industries need to have faith in basic human nature. They need to let everything go viral and stop picking winners and losers. Sunlight is the best disinfectant, after all. We need to have faith that the truth will eventually win out. In 2019, when there has been suppression of speech, that has merely given ammunition to the toxic voices. This also takes the form of bad actors pretending to be on the side of the angels, acting in bad faith by using emotional tactics which act to hide the truth.
Contrarian voices need to be protected. This is precisely what Freedom of Speech is for. Lots of those are going to be toxic, but some of them are going to turn out to be valuable. In the past, Freedom of Speech meant that bad messages could be discredited on their merits. The problem in 2019, is that people are trying to do end-runs around Freedom of Speech not through argument, but through reputation smearing and de-platforming. Basically, short circuiting Freedom of Speech by hacking the right to hear. Do this for a good message, and it only de-legitimizes the good message and gives ammunition to the bad ones.
So, I had never heard this phrase until maybe a year or so ago. Now it seems like (on this site particularly) someone parrots this exact sentence in any thread at all related to news and/or social media.
Where is this coming from? Especially since it is... Emphatically untrue. It's just another one of those turns of phrase that asks you to believe it purely because it's so pithy.
People have studied this. A lot. It's just not true.
Or that the figurative meaning is wrong - that "shining a light" on shady or immoral acts and behaviors is not "the best" for some sense of that word, and there are better options?
https://sunlightfoundation.com/2009/05/26/brandeis-and-the-h... is an interesting blog post on the author of the phrase.
I've felt somewhat gobsmacked seeing free speech go from being seen as more left than right to the opposite in recent years.
As far as I can see, people like the KKK and other White Supremacists have been and still are thoroughly discredited. The only countervailing force to that in 2019 is outrage driven media, produced by other extremist counterparts. If one's business is based on outrage, then you want an enemy to play off of, to generate a vicious circle of outrage and reaction and counter-reaction.
Do most people actually think of the "Ok" hand sign as a Nazi signal? Absent the media spamming this idea, I highly doubt this would ever have been considered anything more than a stupid joke by the mainstream. The reason it spreads, is precisely because it acts perfectly as viral outrage clickbait.
Also, the counterparts on the Far Left also seem to demonstrate the truth of this, through their use of smearing tactics and de-platforming. If anything, they seem to fear the disinfecting qualities of sunlight, the most!
'Sunlight' from the press doesn't necessarily do anything in a court of law, which is the actual thing that is supposed to disinfect society.
A bomb-shell story which drags a corporation or white collar criminal through the mud won't necessarily lead to successful prosecution.
And using sunlight to simply damage a reputation has been used as well. It depends if you believe it's sunlight or not, so we just go back to old-hat media problems.
So let there be a "Free Marketplace of Ideas." This is again, precisely why we need Free Speech! It's when our society lets someone be the arbiter of what's allowed to be said and heard, that we run into problems.
This isn't an easy problem to solve and I certainly don't have the answers.
This is absolutely not a new phenomenon. "Red scare" anyone? Free speech has never protected an individual from social consequences only government/state consequences. We probably agree that it's not a good thing, but it's definitely not new nor has it ever not existed.
Jewish people being excluded from clubs is one example of "social consequences." Women being excluded from the clubs other executives attended was another.
Not sure what you mean here. If Jewish person were allowed into restricted clubs, and people could talk to them and evaluate them on their character, then the true spirit of Free Speech would have been served by this. If a woman would be allowed into the old boy circles, allowed to succeed on her own intelligence and merits, then the true spirit of Free Speech would have been served by this.
Free Speech is important on a purely Epistemological Basis. Sometimes, it's the unpopular ideas which turn out to be the important ones. So long as we can protect Free Speech and the Right to Hear, the unpopular ideas can have a chance to be heard.
I mean, trying to stop people from getting addicted to opioids is fighting against human nature, too.
They don't but in fact, monetize. As you've pointed out this constant need for refresh/dopamine has become second nature for billions. This is a fabulous opportunity for industries to monetize this attention.
But the print industry hasn't changed much. I wonder how they will evolve?
1) A common and agreed upon standard definition of news.
Facts alone are not news. News also has importance and relevance. It's not news simply because a (major) "news" outlet publishes it.
I ate eggs for breakfast. That's truth / fact. It's not news.
2) A common and agreed upon standard definition of journalism / journalist.
Again, working for a "news" outlet does not make you a journalist. Journalism is a verb. It's a series of actions. It's not a (self-anointed) title.
3) Transparency and full disclosure about what is news (objective) and what is op-ed (subjective).
True story: I've seen a friend who has formal higher edu training in journalism (major'ed or minor'ed, I don't recall) take a (political) position on FB and then back up his "facts" with an op-ed piece. This isn't uncommon.
1) News is an account (story) of an event. The degree with which it is "true" is the degree with which it holds the events to account, and the degree with which the news organization/publisher holds itself accountable for that account/story. Good news is accountable and provides accounts of events. "Truth" is the wrong focus; "fact" is far too malleable (hence the status-quo legitimacy of "alternative facts"); accountability is the goal.
2) A journalist is someone who writes accounts/stories for a news organization/publisher and, in turn, is held accountable (either professionally or legally) for their story. Anyone can be a journalist, but few are willing to hold themselves to the standards of accountability good journalism demands.
3) The division between news and op-ed is marked by the degree and nature of accountability. News organizations are accountable for the news. News organizations call for op-eds and those op-eds have a different standard of accountability. That's why we call them op-eds. If a news organization will not hold itself accountable for a story then it is an op-ed.
We are far too focused on "truth" "fact" and "objective vs subjective". Instead we should focus on what the use of journalism and the news is. The use is accountability. And the special nature of news and journalism, what differentiates it from fiction and bullshit, is that it is also held to standards of accountability.
2) " but few are willing to hold themselves to the standards of accountability good journalism demands."
Well yeah. But it's because the dentition of journalism has become "anything done by self-proclaimed journalists." It's entirely self-serving. There is no higher standard. Mainly because the pot is afraid of calling the kettle black.
3) We might call them op-eds but plenty of "news" orgs are all too comfortable presenting their op-eds as news and/or journalism.
1) Being an account is all the news is. It's a story. The division between TMZ and Fox and CNN is defined. They are all news organizations. They differ in the nature of their accountability and the degree with which they hold themselves accountable for their stories. They show this in their willingness to retract, correct, or stand by stories. And they have a history that we can judge.
You already show that in your opinion of them.
2) Anyone can be a journalist. Just as anyone can be a scientist or a programmer. But to do those things, to be considered a professional in those things, is to hold yourself to a certain set of standards, that is, to hold yourself accountable. I have read excellent and insightful journalism in a newspaper just as I have read it on a local blog. In both cases they have acted with professionalism. I have also seen the inverse, in which case I don't consider them credible journalists or their news to be credible.
3) That's a completely credible criticism of many news organizations. That however, does not target my definition of news, that targets the use of op-eds by news organizations to evade accountability. In which case, they are bad news organizations and you would be justified in considering them as such.
However to insist on 100% "truthfulness" or "objectivity" leads to a metaphysical paralysis where news or journalism is impossible. Show me an 100% true and objective news story? You can't (or you could show your fact from your parent comment, but, as you admit, that is not news). Because it has never been like that, nor need it. Instead we can be pragmatic and demand that the news be useful. what the news is is its use. That use is accountability. Because neither I nor you can be everywhere at once. To overcome that, we rely on news, on accounts of events. But, in turn, we can also, as you have, insist that we have good news and criticise those that are not useful (a Fox News, for instance, that insists on only holding one party accountable).
This is inherently political.
> A common and agreed upon standard definition of journalism / journalist.
This is also political.
> Transparency and full disclosure about what is news (objective) and what is op-ed (subjective).
Ultimately, accepting that news is political and rejecting the idea of objective or unbiased reporting is the only way to go.
Nor is journalism.
Nor is transparency.
We can't make everything "political" simply because we lack the will and wherewithal to approach it otherwise. The willingness to give "political" that much importance is simply another symptom of the problem. We're lower expectations i instead of raising them. We're rasing to the bottom, for what? To look "political" in the face, eye to eye?
Journalism may not be politics, but reporting on how politics affects people (and even other nations) is journalism's highest purpose. But it's impossible to completely "cover" all aspects of all politics and be 100% unbiased. Therefore, the most important part of journalism is inherently political.
Facing that reality, we can view journalism with a cautious eye. This is critically important for all journalism, actually, as stories are constantly published that mis-state problems, inaccurately describe complex issues, or just blatantly disregard an important detail of a story. These micro-occlusions of information add up to a twisted view of reality for the reader. I think politics is just one of the many ways we should seek to accept and understand the bias in the news.
I certainly don't agree. Their most important role is to inform the public on things that affect the public's well being. This might include politics and the powerful, but that's not everything. If a hurricane is coming, you need to know about it and you need to know where to go to get safety. Sometimes politics is important to cover. Sometimes powerful people are important to cover. Sometime they are not. It depends on the impact to society. I feel usually news outlets do a poor job of evaluating the importance of the news they report and rather rely on reporting things that will bring the highest notoriety.
And this is where importance and relevance comes in. Getting the facts right is meaningless if the story is low / no priority.
Sure, but that seems to be nearly a meaningless statement. I bet we would have disagreements about what is happening around the world that is important.
> 2. definition of journalism / journalist
Whoever who likes to be called one. This is the silliest proposition, I don't care the slightest of what do you tell a girl when she asks what do you do for money, usually I don't even care who you are at all, I just care if reading stuff on your resource adds value to my life. It's not a honorary title, for goddamn sake, you are not (or rather, unfortunately, you should be not) entitled to anything because you "are a journalist". I care only for what I read, and you (a news portal/journal or a person working for such an entity) mostly care about if what you publish brings you money, and maybe for some artistic matters that make you believe it's your "purpose" or whatever.
So: maybe possible, but not useful.
> 3. full disclosure about what is news (objective) and what is op-ed
Useful, but absolutely impossible. I find a way to publish a story about unicorns fighting dragons in the Singapore and call it news, because I'm fucking Salvador Dali and you won't do a thing about it. And if the country we live in makes it possible to sue me for that, then it's the worst form of censorship possible and basically it's just a shitty country.
> 1.definition of news
Given the 2 and 3, and the fact that your wife or your local farmer might care that you ate eggs for breakfast: both impossible, not useful and yet already solved somehow. Readers eventually buy what they feel (maybe just because of marketing, but still) adds value to their lives (and part of it is news, defined as "facts being of interest to the specific person"). Writers (journalists, if you will) eventually are somewhat forced to write stuff that people will buy, and since some potential users are interested in "news" (i.e. basic facts w/o much of an interpretation being of interest for them), there is an incentive to make such content. So, basically it's THE job of a journalist (defined as "any content maker at all") to find out what is interesting to a specific audience (both facts and op-ed pieces and stories about unicorns) and make it.
So, defining what is the news for your audience is difficult and yet, honestly, I think "journalists" are pretty proficient in finding out what that is, because, well, market economy. The problem with making quality content is not that nobody knows what people want, there just is too little incentive to make quality content, because you only care about larger audience, and the way to sell to larger audience is basically just marketing. At some point, it doesn't even matter that much what you write as long as enough people recognize you as "the source of the news".
After all, I only want to be notified about stuff I actually care about, it may be something that happens once in a few months, plus maybe some very specific stats every day, plus some "op-ed" stuff that is mostly written by actual professionals in their actual industries (which obviously pretty much never can be "professional journalists", simply by definition). In short, what I (and most people) want is expensive to make, and after you make it, you will find hard time selling it to us.
TL;DR: "they" make shitty things, because "we" buy shitty things, and there's no way around it, no matter how hard you try to "define" anything.
P.S.: when I say "buy" I don't necessarily mean literally buying, it may be viewing ads or whatever form of monetization the resource makes up.
In my teens I was an avid news reader and then I heard the aphorism "as worthless as yesterday's news" and I realized: if it won't be useful tomorrow I most likely don't need to know it today (obviously there are a few exceptions, like road closures). And I started to read news sources that reported with higher latency (CSM used to send its small, 7-page newspaper though the mail) and discovered I really never missed anything important.
The reason is not that the media or the journalists do something wrong. Rather, the vast majority of the public is simply not interested in being educated or informed.
You can send the best art / math / business professor to a school, but if the students are not interested in that field and have no need for a good grade, there will be very little learning done.
The public is quite capable to take any information they are offered, and convert it to an argument in favor of their political or social beliefs; it is also very capable, when given a choice, to select the lowest quality information.
It's unclear to me how anything can be done to counteract those tendencies. And as long as these tendencies stay in place, it seems rather futile to discuss "better news".
By most any measure, today's western democracies are the best place, and time in history, to be alive: life expectancy, crime, food availability, mobility.
This is also true of education and "being informed", although those are harder to measure. But literacy rates, high school and advanced degree proliferation, books being published, and of course internet access should be decent proxies.
That's not even including the vast improvements people who aren't white, able-bodied men have seen. Just ask around among women over 70 and you will find plenty who wanted to go to medical school and were stymied for whatever reason. My mother was told that, yes, she can matriculate. "But as long as I am professor, no woman will pass [some required class]"
The OP wrote that, "You can send the best art / math / business professor to a school, but if the students are not interested in that field and have no need for a good grade, there will be very little learning done." Let's take that and combine it with the women going to medical school that you referenced.
OP is suggesting that the women going to medical school might put all of their effort into the classes that directly pertain to their field. But if they need an elective class (let's say, some kind of art class, for instance), then they might go into that and put forth the lowest effort possible to achieve a passing grade if it doesn't interest them. OP's suggesting, and rightly so I believe, that the general populous does the same thing with politics. Those that care about it invest more time in reading about it, while those that don't care about it won't invest more time in reading about it and will typically choose the lowest-effort, easiest-to-digest sources of news.
Going back to OP's original question, how to we counteract those tendencies?
That data shows only modest changes since 1940, and no discernible decline in the last decade or so. If anything, turnout was lower in the 80s and 90s, slightly higher in the 60s.
The New York Times has seen subscriptions quadruple from 1988 to today. (two charts needed for this timespan: https://gigaom2.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/oimg.png and https://secondmeasure.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/NYT-Cha...)
A large voter turnout indicates interest in politics.
A large voter turnout does not indicate interest in being informed or educated. I think it's pretty obvious. But just in case, here's an example:
- Voter turnout in the US Presidential Elections 1996-2016 : 53-64%.
- Voter turnout in German Federal Elections 1933: 88.7% (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_1933_German_federal_elec...).
I am sure you would not consider the electorate that chose the Nazis (giving them by far the largest share, 44%) to be more informed / educated than the modern US electorate.
> OP's position is basically "everything was better in the past" [that's from your other comment below]
I think the past was horrible, and I'm glad I live in this century. Why did you conclude that I like the past? Was some of my wording ambiguous?
> this idea has never worked in the past, and there's no evidence that it can work in the near future.
In other words, I believe the majority of the public was not, is not, and will not be (in the foreseeable future) interested in being informed and educated about politics.
Also, I personally never thought of myself as a cynic - I find the world to be quite enjoyable, and getting better (just not in this particular area).
We sort of assume that there's some possible combination of headlines, articles, books, tweets etc that can make us informed and wise about the current state of things in the world, that matter. But what if that isn't true? I think it probably isn't.
The trick is to find a system of government that still results in a stable, functional, and comfortable society, even though most of the people have basically no clue what's going on.
I think the Federalist papers were a decent attempt to design such a system of government. In fact, I think it's worked quite well for the past 200+ years.
Perhaps the world changed so much that a new approach might work better. Perhaps that same approach will continue working for a while longer, especially if it evolves a bit. It's a interesting topic but sadly I don't have any good insights to share.
Compulsory education. Started like this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prussian_education_system#Driv...
(Having said that, the authors of De Correspondent sometimes come across as oblivious to how their world views are shaped by living in the cultural bubble that is the Randstad. There is a certain arrogance to the writing style that just makes it feel like the kind of thing that people living in Amsterdam would write, and it sometimes rubs me the wrong way. I guess that makes it the Dutch equivalent to the New Yorker.)
Otherwise I tend to read the Economist, mostly on paper, to get a broad international analysis.
Especially when you read them as paperback they take out all the haste. You can't "refresh" them. The style tends to be less lurid, because it is pointless to write an hot article with Tuesday's information if you print on Sunday. Topics are way more broad in my experience but still capture the Zeitgeist of current topics in whatever culture you live in (it has to be a good newspaper, of course). There is of course a certain desire to read everything, since you paid for it, but it's finite: It is not a permanent rat race to read all the news, when you're done, you're done.
Even if you don't use whatever paper you get to it's fullest, you will still realize: You do not actually become an "informed voter" by knowing the exact updated body count of some colorful tragedy on the other side of the world. Reading one well researched multi-perspective article with depth will do just fine!
In fact the offer of "slow news" is so much larger than "fast news". The New Yorker is actually an example of very slow news ;-) Also on TV/Web streaming there is a lot of slow news like BBC News for instance. The truth is most people find this too boring, they are just not interested in Politics. Maybe new formats like VICE are improving this.
Maybe this problem didn't even got worse but it just became more visible in the age of Google News where you suddenly see that you can read the same article on 200 different news pages - sometimes just copy&pasting from Reuters.
And yes, news is always biased. That's why one should read different sources with different biases... That's a very time consuming task if you are only consuming slow news.
So, I make it a point to only visit websites that update daily (e.g., https://www.nytimes.com/section/todayspaper) or weekly (https://asia.nikkei.com/Print-Edition). I also started to read news in the morning for 15-30 mins from a paper subscription (Financial Times).
I hope this kind of news consumption catches back on.
I'm sure there's some virtue signalling going on here, similar to the "I don't watch TV" from years ago. It just strikes me as odd that people will gloat about their ignorance, on HN of all places.
I'm pretty sure my being aware of local and global events, plus voting, plus demonstrating, plus organizing, plus god knows how much time arguing politics on the Internet has done... pretty much nothing at all. I've quit all of it (except the arguing on the Internet part, naturally).
Almost none of the news is important, because it's not effectively actionable (for most people). It's fine if you like the news as entertainment. It's not fine to look down on people for not liking the entertainment you do.
As for ignorance, if you want to be an informed voter/activist/whatever then very little of your information diet should be news. Most of it should be books.
Although to be fair this belief is nothing new. Per Mark Twain, "If you don't read the newspaper, you're uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you're mis-informed."
I would sincerely be interested in knowing the sources of some great news, so please share. Until then all your comment amounts to is an insult, without any substance.
Just keep in mind that most news is useless and meant to entertain and hold your attention but give you little to no benefit. Also, note that it has a big impact on your mental health and not for the better.
IMO if you want to be ignorant, read the news. If you want to be informed, read last week's or last year's news, which should cure one of a few delusions. If you want to learn something, perhaps read history instead.
As long as money/advertising is so lucrative when so much trash is funneled so quickly, this will be a problem. We pretty much have to find a way for companies to gain as much money some other way, e.g. “I’m a billionaire, I will give half a billion dollars to the station that wins a quality journalism award”.
If you’re an individual and not a media company, waiting awhile for the full developed story is definitely better.
Heck, waiting awhile and unplugging works for lots of things. For instance, if you can convince yourself to ignore a hot new TV show for a year (so that it’s “new to you” a year from now), it’ll probably be cheaper; and, you can benefit from average ratings and other info to tell you if the show/season turned out to be not worth watching at all.
I'd prefer a digest version once a month, the same size as the weekly version, with "more important" news and the same cost.
All information has a time horizon over which it is likely to be valuable. For some outrage news stories, it's just a few hours, while for more thoughtful political analyses, it's a year or two.
Even if you read voraciously, if you're consuming information with a short time horizon of value, you're going to be facing a constant downward momentum of useful knowledge, as the information you know becomes outdated or irrelevant.
Focus as much as you can on reading content that will be valuable for the foreseeable future, and you can avoid that downward momentum of information 'expiring'.
Then I found I was reading the same thing each day on the front page of NYTimes, Guardian, my local papers (Toronto)
Now I check every few days, but I adore the sub sections on NYTimes. Wether it be food, technology, science, opinion. All fun to read and "slower"