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Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper (1807) (uchicago.edu)
387 points by apsec112 6 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 332 comments



The feeling that it's just completely impossible to know what's going on in the world is really debilitating.

I spend probably an hour a day reading headlines from major outlets with a bunch of different political alignments, and to be honest, I don't really know why I even do it.

By the end of it, all I really have is a vague silhouette of a picture of what might have happened, according to a handful of corporations whose job it is to turn the smallest amount of factual raw material into maximally entertaining spectacle. The factual raw material can even be done away with sometimes as evidenced by how much of the news is just media reporting on itself (often centering on Twitter!).

There is not a technical solution to any of this. "Decentralization" into forums and social media and whatnot is not a solution. At best it's a good way for some of us to discuss the problem among ourselves as it unfolds. Decentralization is better termed "de-professionalization." The institutions which used to, at the very least, dedicate serious resources to going out into the world and gathering facts no longer function properly or just don't exist.

I remember seeing an interview with Christopher Hitchens where somebody asked him how he informed himself about the world, what news he liked to read. He said, not much. Mostly he relied on people he knew personally in various parts of the world who have firsthand experience and write him about it. Must be nice!


> The feeling that it's just completely impossible to know what's going on in the world is really debilitating.

Honestly, I think the standards you seem to be setting for yourself are too high. As far as I know, none of us are God, so it is completely impossible for us to know what's going on in the world.

> according to a handful of corporations whose job it is to turn the smallest amount of factual raw material into maximally entertaining spectacle.

Which ones are you referring to, specifically? While there are certainly some companies that just want to turn the news into "entertaining spectacle," I think it's over-cynical to say they all do. I try to focus on the ones that seem to feel they have a duty to report on the news and columnists who seem to feel they have something important to say (and whose columns are interesting enough that that may actually be true).

> There is not a technical solution to any of this. "Decentralization" into forums and social media and whatnot is not a solution. At best it's a good way for some of us to discuss the problem among ourselves as it unfolds. Decentralization is better termed "de-professionalization." The institutions which used to, at the very least, dedicate serious resources to going out into the world and gathering facts no longer function properly or just don't exist.

I totally agree with you here about de-professionalization, but I'm less dejected about traditional news gathering institutions. They're definitely on the decline, but they're not dead yet. Some are still soldiering on and functioning reasonably well, especially if you're interested in national/international news or live in a major city.


Not just about corporations turning the news into "entertaining spectacle". Its scary from a climate change perspective that in my country (Australia), that people invested in the mining and fossil fuel industries are also investing in TV.


The NYTimes definitely prints stuff that is factual. A lot of the entertaining stuff is factual. It just depends on your goals. For example, if you read NYTimes every day since March, you'd sell at the bottom of the fastest stock market recovery in history.

Things can be factual and yet point you in the 200% wrong direction. And since that direction, for the average person, really means, on average, making tons of money, the average news source's pessimism (the actual continuity between 1807 and now) is going to... lose you a ton of money.


I think it makes perfect logical sense though. Any (large) business is vulnerable to the government. Having a large amount of control over the media allows those companies to mitigate the risk from the government a little.


” I try to focus on the ones that seem to feel they have a duty to report on the news”

Can you share an example? I have trouble coming up with any which aren’t burdened with profit or idealogical motives.


I think wire services are generally pretty good, and Wikipedia Current Events Portal has a decent roundup of wire reports (AP, BBC, Reuters, etc) for stuff going on in the world.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Current_events

Everyone has profit motives and stuff, but if you're well-read and keep an eye on what's going on you can usually subtract any bias you detect.


There's a great deal that can be criticized about the journalism provided by mainstream media outlets (which news is considered newsworthy, which experts are consulted, etc.), but I don't know of any evidence suggesting that the standards for factual reporting have slipped any. The question of who can be trusted to provide analysis is as relevant as it's ever been.


PBS news hour


> As far as I know, none of us are God, so it is completely impossible for us to know what's going on in the world.

Or.... all of us are: http://www.galactanet.com/oneoff/theegg_mod.html

Also... I feel for GP. I check out all kinds of sources because there are all kinds of biases. It's crazy how clickbait has changed the news business.

That... and thinking about it --- the REMOVAL of brand authority from media. Instead of democratizing, it has devolved in some ways - though clearly empowered in others.


It sounds like you're suggesting that it is possible to get unbiased factual information about the world? Am I correct in that assessment? I think that's what the parent comment was saying is not really possible to do and I think is the salient point and something that I agree with.


I think that the best thing, which is really hard to do with the internet, is to let time pass. If you're 1-2 weeks, 1 month behind the news, you will probably get only the important news. Following daily news is madness and useless unless you're making money out of it.

As someone I know said when I mentioned a new revolutionary battery technology has been discovered: I'll believe it when the researchers get the Nobel prize for it, in 10 years.


This is good advice but I want to clarify that the problem I'm trying to highlight here is structural - historical and political, and we should be thinking about it that way too, as well trying to figure out how to cope with the situation as individuals.


>> The feeling that it's just completely impossible to know what's going on in the world is really debilitating.

Is it? Why? Does it meaningfully change your life to know what's going on everywhere from the mundane to the impactful?

Our lives are lived in the present, locally. You interact with people in your community thousands of times more than people you read about thousands of miles away.

Be where your feet are.


I personally view it as a duty. Part of being a citizen in a (kind of) functioning democracy is understanding the nuances of the stuff that is screwed up around you to the best of your ability so that when the time comes to vote or have a meaningful discussion with others around you, you can be a voice of reason. Ignoring the world around them is how so many Americans still think Iraq had something to do with 9/11. I may not know everything, but I'm trying and putting an honest effort into learning as much as I can every single day. Reading NYT, WaPo, etc. is my version of putting an American flag out front, or a Support the Troops sticker on my car, or singing the National Anthem or whatever people do to feel like they're doing their part.

That being said, your approach is probably a lot healthier in the long-run. I always get really depressed after reading the papers. Usually I just call a buddy after and we both rant about things and afterwards everyone feels ok.


>> Ignoring the world around them is how so many Americans still think Iraq had something to do with 9/11.

Consider that maybe them ingesting news from the President and other "news sources" are the reason they think this. Not because they are ignoring the world. If they ignored the world around them, they wouldn't have an opinion at all.

So in that case, how good is the consumption of information?

This is a lot like people saying that the people from thousands of years ago thought the world was flat. Then there is a rebuttal saying "no, Eratosthenes proved it was round forever ago, people knew that." The reality is people didn't think about if the world was round or not and it had zero impact on their life and vice versa.

People consume so much news information thinking it makes them a good citizen or something. But our power to change what happens 7000 miles away is basically nil; the power to change the lives of people within 7 miles of you is massive. And if we all did that... the people 7000 miles away would probably get a lot better results than us whining and wringing our hands about it while hoping politicians did something.


I don't mean to be dismissive of your argument. I'm trying to follow it. However, your argument seems to be for a country of passive, ignorant sheep that let whoever is in the White House do whatever they want?

The problem in '03 wasn't that people were reading too much, it was that they had no idea what was going on. The more you read, the more news from the President becomes contextualized, and you can have a more nuanced opinion on it. If the President says "Iraq bad" and you don't know anything about Iraq, it's hard to go "well, actually, it's a little more complicated than that."

Edit: I have a masters in international affairs. But, when I want to talk international affairs, the person I call up is my buddy with a high-school diploma, not people from my cohort. My less-formally-educated friend reads widely, and has a much more grounded take on everything going on around us that sometimes makes me stop and rethink my own opinions. The power of reading widely and often is pretty spectacular in my opinion, and can sometimes trump a formal education in a subject.


>> However, your argument seems to be for a country of passive, ignorant sheep that let whoever is in the White House do whatever they want?

My argument is that people have vanishingly little power as-is anyway, as evidenced by both executive and legislative branches ignoring the popular sentiments and securing their power first and foremost. In which case, time spent in that area is an absurdly low ROI compared to just helping your neighbors with the groceries, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, or stocking your Little Free Libraries/Pantries near you, rather than worrying what is happening in Tibet.


I very much agree with you, actually!

I disagree in that I believe that states and localities can be an agent of broader change. Sure, the feds won't reform drug laws, but locally our states and localities are simply working around the feds! So we should know what's wrong in a broad sense to push our localities in the right direction. And I believe in keeping tabs on the feds so if we get a chance to nudge them in the right direction, we can.

Despite disagreeing with you on that point, I think you are 100% right, and if we were all acting locally to make the world a better place....well, it probably would be.


I don't agree with the characterization of "passive, ignorant sheep", but otherwise I'll bite that bullet. My attitude towards the US government is very similar to my attitude towards McDonalds Corporation; I learn a bit about their operations because I'm curious about large and powerful organizations, but I don't feel much obligation to keep my knowledge up to date.


Your larger point is correct.

> people didn't think about if the world was round or not

As someone who once spent 2 hours bored on a boat, I do not find this credible.


I will say, you are the perfect user/customer to have for media companies. Given the moral duty you ascribe to information consumption from these sites, I'd imagine it'd take a lot to lose you as a user.

As a user researcher, I'm really curious on how you think about what matters/what doesn't matter in terms of your news consumption. Obviously, there is a near infinite amount of things that happen every day/week/month/year/decade, but we all have a very finite amount of attention we can give to all of the information & potential news.

What issues/information/stories do you think matter? Is there a strong correlation between what you think matters and what NYT, WaPo, etc. are producing? Did you independently come up with the topics that most matter and then you track news on them, or you decide what matters after consuming news on the news sites?


I use an in-house AI-driven solution.


I do understand your feelings of a responsibility to be up to date on news, especially when it is regarding political events. It's easy to get the facts from a report on the weather, a tornado devastated a town, you know this is true because you can see the photos (selected for drama) taken of the damage.

It's more difficult when reporting is on things that are a little more fluffy. Claims a politician did something are almost impossible to verify and reporting on this ends up being an exercise in spin. One of the best things about politicians taking to twitter to directly communicate is that you have an unfiltered direct message. If something is in a tweet from a politician then you can be pretty sure that is the message they want to get out. If they same something stupid or ill considered at least you can judge them on that, not so much the actual facts of the content.

So media of all types allow you to judge the messenger, less so the message.


But you still don’t know what’s going on in the world. You just know slightly more superficial coverage of the topics du jour that NYTimes, WaPo, etc care to push.

It’s worse to read the news and think yourself informed than to be ignorant and know it.


I've found that most people who recognize their ignorance are those who've tried to defeat it.


That’s ridiculous. It doesn’t take an attempt to learn about heart surgery techniques to recognize that you can’t perform or have any meaningful opinions about heart surgery.


People who don't follow the politics or news regularly often believe that complex problems have simple fixes, hence the popularity of soundbite politics.

The only computer person I've ever met who was confident he knew everything there was to know about computers had never strayed outside building desktops.

The more you know about something, generally the more you recognize how much more there is to it that you don't know. A first-year medical student almost certainly is more keenly aware of how complex open-heart surgery is than someone whose knowledge is limited to watching it on Scrubs.


People who read the NYTimes/WaPo are the ones who enjoy sound bite politics. Whether it’s a 8 paragraph article or a 20 second sound bite, they are the same class of understanding.

Someone who is ignorant and understands what not knowing something means eschews sound bite politics and any other simplifications due to all of the biases that come with any reduction.


> Our lives are lived in the present, locally.

Meaningless nonsense.

> You interact with people in your community thousands of times more than people you read about thousands of miles away.

So? How does that invalidate your civic obligation to be aware of the decisions made in the centers of power outside your community? This whole dichotomy between the "local interactions" / socializing vs. governance that happens "thousands of miles away" has no basis.

> Be where your feet are.

Try living in a real hell hole and see if you find self-help phrases like this useful.


We live in a democracy. If you vote, I hope you feel a responsibility to only vote on what you think you're reasonably informed about. It's really hard to do. I'm in California (SF), where we have a zillion things on the ballot. Half the time, it's something that sounds obviously good, but on doing research there are probably terrible unintended consequences (like so much of the news). Or look at voting Biden vs Trump. They, and papers on their respective sides of the divide will tell you entirely different things about what reality is and what's going wrong. I have to learn about what's happening beyond me to decide. If we get medicare for all, will it mean horrible wait times or death panels or will it turn us into a Narnian Scandanavian utopia? The firmer a grip we collectively have on how the world works and what's happening, the better the results of our democracy, directly affecting us.

And there's more than just us. Take BLM, or the conditions of sweatshop workers who made my shoes, or the kinds of people trying to immigrate. Should I vote for changes to policing or for crackdowns on rioters? Should I buy someone else's brand of shoes or is fair trade just to make ignorant hippies feel good? Should I help innocent people escape terrible conditions, or are they largely violent criminals to be kept out? It won't affect me either way, but that's a cop out anyways.

> Be where your feet are.

I prefer "think globally, act locally."


> Decentralization is better termed "de-professionalization." The institutions which used to, at the very least, dedicate serious resources to going out into the world and gathering facts no longer function properly or just don't exist.

But now the people they were gathering the facts from are connected to the internet.

Local newspapers often had a police blotter publishing the police reports in the locality. Now you can get that directly from the police department, because they have a website.

Once upon a time if you wanted to get stories from Turkey and Israel and Brazil then you had to send reporters to those places to collect the stories of the people there. Now the people there are on the internet and can post their stories themselves.

You're getting closer to the sources instead of having a "professional" as an intermediary. But you're also getting access to more sources, with more differing opinions, and it's driving people nuts because they don't know who to believe. But there weren't any fewer sources before, you just weren't hearing from so many of them because the traditional gatekeepers decided for you what you got to hear. If you assume they were doing a good job of that then we've lost something, but what evidence is there of that?


This is why I'm convinced independent journalists are the future. Fact finding itself is a shrinking part of the job. Fact checking the monunental amount of data out there is increasingly important. As such, the need for these megacorp publishers is going away.

Edit: Just look at the BLM movement. Lots of people believe these are peaceful civil disobedience and lots of people believe they're communist race riots. Right now, the question is basically "who do you want to believe?" I don't claim to have an answer but I just hope that the right ideas will win in an open space with small creators.


When there's enough conflicting information out there, fact checking just turns back into fact finding, doesn't it?


I mean people don't need to go gather primary sources as much if every important event has thousands of smartphone cameras at the scene.


Most of what gets uploaded anywhere or even worse, the stuff that goes viral, has a pretty heavy selection bias. To know whether the stuff that got shared publicly tells the whole story or a misleading story, you have to know more than just what got shared publicly.

Maybe the event that everyone pulled out their phones for had some important context beforehand, but at that point it didn't look noteworthy enough to pull out anyone's phone for. Now you'll have tons of recordings of the same event, but that doesn't mean any more context than one video.

I prefer a story written by someone who was there to a story written by someone who looked through all the thousands of posts to social media, but wasn't there.


The vast vast majority of news isn't actionable in our daily lives, at all. At the core of it, we read the news to satisfy our human curiosity.

Once I came to realize this, it was like a weight was lifted off me. For the last few months, I've only been reading news regarding specific topics I'm genuinely interested in (new gadgets, tech/startups in general, new skyscraper projects, etc).

This way, it's like I'm reading books about my interests that were written very very recently. General news seems to add a net negative to my life with very little upside, so I just stopped reading it.


As they say, "Ignorance is bliss"


Here is what goes on in a day:

1.) Bad things 2.) Good things 3.) Things that might be both bad and good

Thankfully we live in the safest period of human history. Thankfully many smart people want to focus their time on doing good things.


> Thankfully we live in the safest period of human history. Thankfully many smart people want to focus their time on doing good things.

The obvious counter is "but you learned this from headlines" (assuming you're not like Hitchens with a bunch of intercontinental friends to be your eyes and ears.


No the headlines state the opposite. You learn this by reading history and looking at recent events through reasonable sources.

And yes this is the safest period in human history, and it continues to get safer by the day.


My personal favorite example to get some perspective is from the book Days of Rage. During the 1970s domestic bombings were a daily occurrence, and at the peak there were over 2000 a year. Even the massive amount of violence in modern day Chicago is nothing in comparison to what was happening as recently as the 90s.


It's an interesting thing how crime rates in the US peaked right after the fall of the Soviet Union and then went into deep decline: It's as if having the visible external enemy was the factor that allowed it to increase, and the post-Cold War paralysis deescalated this process. The Soviet bogeyman was replaced in turn with terrorists, but this too is increasingly seen as a domestic issue of "right wing militia v. antifa", lacking in credible affiliations abroad as the Mid-Eastern interventions have wound down.

And that is perhaps the real source of the frantic polarization: Look anywhere, just not in the mirror.


Not the person you were responding to, but I learned it from this TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm5xF-UYgdg

(Not joking in the least. It's a very good presentation. Title is: How not to be ignorant about the world | Hans and Ola Rosling)


yeah well you’re not being persecuted. for many it may as well be the 12th century or whatever


Agreed. Probably aren't too many Yemenis on here. Part of reading the news is to see how bad it really is for some people, and drum up ideas for how you can help them in your own way (donating to a public interest group, volunteering, raising awareness, etc).


I think the best approach is to read a story from a left, right and centrist source. The intersection of "facts" is probably all true and the things that point far one direction or the other are probably in the middle somewhere.


This reads to me like saying "the best way to determine if god exists is to read the hebrew bible, the koran, and the book of mormon and take the average".

It starts with the assumption left, right, and centrist sources all have biases, but those biases cancel out. That the "middle" of those things is meaningfully better.

I see no evidence that that's the case. All popular news sources these days seem to be biased towards corporate profit.

"Left" and "right" both exist relative to each other more than they exist relative to the truth.

Reading several news sources to find the truth begs the question of if modern news sources, regardless of political bent, are meaningful sources of factual information vs sources of advertisements and outrage.

For the sake of presenting a counter argument, I think that keeping up with the constant inflow of news doesn't get you meaningfully closer to the truth compared to reading well-regarded books on recent history around the world, and using that as a lens to understand the present. Well-regarded non-fiction books are generally better researched than stories on "this senator just had a haircut", and the recent past shapes the present significantly, not to mention repeats itself shockingly often.

By reading left and right sources, you're assuming you can find similar stories on similar matters, when the most important matters are not "the president tweeted X" (which both sources will report on), but rather information about the structure of cities, the human condition, and changes thereof ("a postmortem on this transit project shows that we, as a society, should think in this way"), which usually no news agency will report on. It's just too dry, unless the researcher dresses it up and makes it flashy.


The thing with those books is, they are 100% based on faith. There are no underlying facts that they're based on. They're independently constructed origin myths and allegorical morality tales.

With an article in the NYT, it's a narrative representation of objective facts as filtered through the lens of a reporter. If you think it's B.S. check Reuters, check WaPo, check NPR, hell check Fox reporting on the same core set of facts.

If the story is important, it's going to be out on the wire feeds, and other major outlets. The narratives average out, the facts (mostly) stay the same.

That's the whole point of college. So we can learn to think about complicated things and draw on multiple sources to paint a cohesive picture.


I don't accept your premise that books are not factual and news media is more/entirely factual. Do you have any evidence on that?

The evidence I've got generally sways towards well-regarded non-fiction book authors generally having more expertise in the area they write about than well-regarded journalists. This also makes intuitive sense - journalists often write about many subjects and act as second-hand sources, while researchers and authors are often first-hand sources and write about fewer subjects.

My point is not that most news organizations don't publish similar articles. My point is that they do, but them doing so is not evidence that what they post is useful factual information for staying informed.

Just because you consulted multiple sources doesn't mean you get a true picture. 3 bibles all will tell you there is 1 god because those three sources share the same underlying bias.

A dozen news sources will tell you the same thing, but that could also mean that they share the same underlying biases (the bias towards a quick and profitable news cycle vs a slow and thoughtful conveyance of meaningful fact).

The fact that NYT, Reuters, etc are all reporting on a fast news cycle and using similar content doesn't mean that the content they're reporting is intended to inform me and give me a more realistic grounding necessarily. It could also mean they all have the same profit motives and all optimize to produce more clicks rather than inform more meaningfully.

To make sure I'm not being taken the wrong way, I do think the news generally does strive to be both true and to convey information. I think that the competing need to drive clicks/ad-dollars/etc results in it conveying information poorly. It frames true facts in ways that drive outrage to drive clicks. It tries to create a quick news cycles so there's always new things to publish. The faster news cycle favors reporters creating quick pieces, and disfavors serious investigative reporting. I don't think the news media succeeds on informing me well of important things, but rather succeeds on making me weary with a deluge of facts that won't matter in 2 weeks.


With regard to the first point, I meant those particular religious texts you cited. I'm a huge fan of nonfiction books in general.

When I open NYT, Politico, and WaPo I see:

> Justice Dept. Plans to File Antitrust Charges Against Google in Coming Weeks > Justice Department expected to file antitrust suit against Google > The Justice Department could file a lawsuit against Google this month, overriding skepticism from its own top lawyers

Based off of this, I figure the Justice Department will probably do some antitrust stuff involving Google in the near future.

It's probably not 100% a sure thing that it's going to happen, but it probably will, and it's now on my radar to keep an eye on since that might actually wind up being a big deal.

That's what I want out of the news. I'm not sure what else I would expect? If I open and read any of those articles, there will be different takes on the Justice department's plan to go after google, and I can read into those however much I want, but the core facts are that the Justice department is planning on going after Google. I don't think that's made up, and I think antitrust + big tech is a pretty important issue to keep an eye on.


Ah, yup, on the first point I misunderstood what you meant. Apologies for reading your comment in a poorer light than it was.

We agree in some broad strokes, but seem to disagree on other points.

The original comment I wrote was contesting the idea that averaging multiple points of view necessarily mean that you're getting closer to the truth. It can mean that, but it doesn't have to if there's a shared underlying bias.

I think we'd also disagree on the value of being informed about current things similar to your example of a google anti-trust suit. I would personally expect that reading the average news article on it does not make me meaningfully more informed (since journalists digest the original court filing or whatever prompted it into a piece devoid of value in my experience).

I'd say that you get more value out of understanding the broader context: how anti-trust suits in the US generally go. In all probability, in 4 months that headline will be completely irrelevant and nothing will have happened. It's more likely that it's a clickbait bit of news churn based on a fragment of truth than that it's both true, and the implication that it's meaningful and important news for us to know is also true.


In retrospect, when you look at that particular example I gave, I'd maybe have to say you're right.


>>>This reads to me like saying "the best way to determine if god exists is to read the hebrew bible, the koran, and the book of mormon and take the average".

That's kinda what led Aleister Crowley to create Thelema. In a very broad sense, he learned about belief systems from around the world, especially focused on "Messiah" type characters and the similarities in their experiences/stories/methods of enlightment, and then built a system that was somewhat of a fusion of all methodologies, largely as an extension of Jewish mysticism.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thelema

Part of the problem with sticking to recently-published books is the lag time involved. Consuming a variety of current news sources can not only lead you toward a "ground truth" for that particular case, but can also frame a better understanding of other evolving situations, and arm you with a better frame of reference to not only understand those as well, but shape your actions in yet a third actively-developing scenario.


Well said. The problem is not bias but just the absence of any real content.

What happened in the world today? CNN: Trump is rude and orange! etc.


I know it's hip to be pathologically cynical about the news media, especially in a thread like this, but that hot take flies past hyperbole and right into farce.


This is the argument to moderation [1] also known as the golden mean fallacy. If one person says the sky is blue and another person says the sky is yellow, by taking the middle position you would conclude that the sky is green. This is clearly not correct.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_to_moderation


That's such a stupid example though. I'd assume the sky was looking in such a way that it could be interpreted as either. A nice sunset gradient perhaps? Averaging the color spectrum values or hypothetically mixing colors is ridiculous.

If you have reason to assume atleast some measure of good faith, I think it's reasonable to try to cancel out biases between sources to get closer to the truth.


I've found that even "liberal" media is heavily biased to favor corporate sponsors.

Sometimes journalists can sneak small (actually) progressive articles through but are often followed up by large front-page hit pieces on those same ideas.


That's because "liberal" in the U.S. typically means "neo-liberal", so the focus on corporate sponsors shouldn't be a surprise.


Liberal globally refers to economic liberalism - that is, capitalism.


I've had a slow descent not getting away from reading the news over the last several years. It's been incredibly gradual, but further to your point about firsthand experiences from people I know personally, I have to admit that has been truly transformative. I've now made it a point to find any which way I can to find friends or make acquaintances in other countries and actively nurture a relationship with them in order to get a better picture of what's going on. It's been truly refreshing. That said, I'm still not sure what a technical, automated and scalable solution accessible to the masses for this would look like and if it could or would even work, but nonetheless, there's definitely something in this idea.


> Mostly he relied on people he knew personally in various parts of the world who have firsthand experience and write him about it. Must be nice

It is not that difficult.

In the world of internet, there are many prolific writers who have lived very public lives. There are quite a few specific opinion/news writers who I've read long enough to know their biases or the lack there of, depending on what they are reporting. These individual actors being the feet-on-the-ground lends a large amount of credibility to them as well.


I think the best solution is to cast a wide net, gather information from as many viewpoints as possible, and then look for correlations to narrow down on the truth.

The human brain is surprisingly good at this. The brain is constantly doing this with our various senses. None of those senses is perfect and they are fooled easily yet by examining the overlap we are able to create a surprisingly accurate picture of reality.


> The human brain is surprisingly good at this.

Is it, though? Confirmation bias is a pretty big factor in how we parse incoming information. I try to read a variety of sources and see where different folks are coming from, but I wouldn't delude myself to think that I'm some ultra-rational arbiter of truth.

We need only look as far as the growing(!) popularity of the flat-earth conspiracy to see that the population at large is no better at this than I think I am.


> cast a wide net, gather information from as many viewpoints as possible,

I agree that's the best thing to do. It's a rational choice. I do it and recommend others do it.

But there's still this historical problem of divestment from traditional journalistic practices (going out into the world, gathering facts, interviewing people, observing -- it's expensive). Without that factual raw material it doesn't matter how diverse your set of sources is, your ability to know your own world is impoverished.


I find that Youtube is a very underrated source for those traditional journalistic practices. It's amazing how many great interviews there are with formats that allow interviewees to actually answer a question rather than provide a TV sound-bite. There's such a huge variety of content creators that you can often find a primary-source for major events.

It also helps the recommendation algo if you use separate accounts for watching entertainment vids vs. this more serious content.


Handy tip: to get the politics of a nation, read the news on it by some paper outside the nation.

So reading the BBC for US news gives you something fairly readable.


What I see is that foreign news have no idea of what is happening in my country, they all just repeat some superficial and normally wrong pieces.

At the same time, domestic media is all lying through their teeth.

With some work one can disecate the news, separate what can't possibly be lies (because it would lead to problems), and reassembly something into an overall picture. (Who has the time for all this?) But one can never know what is being omitted, either intentionally or by incompetency.


The BBC is not 'wrong' - it's maybe just superficial and doesn't have enough detail.

The anecdotes about 'lying press' on this thread are misleading. 'Respected' news entities do not just 'make stuff up'. Definitely no the BBC, they have standards.

The problem with the bigger agencies is narrative bias, and yes, if 'within America' the narrative is pushed to 'one side' hard by the local press, then the international press will be influenced by that, but it's not as bad.

Edit: got to CNN.com right now and give some examples of their 'blatant lying'. Because they're not. Editorial bias, of course, but 'making up stories' - this is wrong. The onus would be on you to provide evidence they are doing this consistently.


Would you consider leaving out key facts that drastically alter the conclusion one might draw, lying? I would.

How about covering one news story, then not covering another on the same topic, such that you form a very different opinion about “what is going on”?


I would consider that to be editorial bias.

Lying would be indicating something that was not true.

I don't doubt that the former can be just as bad or worse than the later over the long haul, which is why, by the way, I don't watch cable news.


The Guardian actually does a very fine job covering US news.


The Guardian is super biased and narrative driven - most outlets in the UK are. The BBC less so, and oddly, the FT's coverage tends to be very demure.


Yeah but they'll skew it based on their political leanings, too. They're just a little less invested in the geographic details. But ideologically, they want to convince/captivate people to their point of view.


It is your perspective, similar to “The World as Will and Representation” by Schopenhauer:

> Schopenhauer argues that the world we experience around us—the world of objects in space and time and related in causal ways—exists solely as ‘representation’ (Vorstellung) dependent on a cognizing subject, not as a world that can be considered to exist in itself (i.e. independently of how it appears to the subject’s mind). Our knowledge of objects is thus knowledge of mere phenomena rather than things-in-themselves.

I like to think that the recent physics discoveries are crossing the same line.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_World_as_Will_and_Repres...


My solution is I read the Economist and the Sunday NYT (which admittedly skews too much these days but then I guess so do I). The 1 week lag gives things time to settle. And I love the ritual of the paper.


What if it was always impossible, and we're just now finally realizing it? In that case this may be a positive development. But we're just at the beginning of learning how to adapt to it.


Yeah, that is a kind of postmodern take on the situation that I have some sympathy for. I do think this attitude could lead to a kind of quietism about a problem we could actually make a dent in though, if we did some things differently.

I think we should think about the destruction of traditional journalism not as some inevitable natural evolution, like the tide coming in washing away our sand castle, but instead as a historical, political development with high stakes, winners and losers. We should fight against it, not just passievly "adapt."

That doesn't mean replicate exactly what was there before, but I don't think we have to just acquiesce before a now permanently incomprehensible world and give up on ever understanding it, either.


> we're just now finally realizing it

We're all commenting on a post from 1807 saying the same thing. Maybe it was always impossible, but we think that people used to not realize it. If that's the case, we're definitely not at the beginning and it doesn't bode particularly well.


It's new in the post WWII period though, which was characterized by a few newspapers and TV networks basically holding a consensus, with a bit of wiggle room for debate, but no outlier views. Uncle Walter and all that.


> he knew personally in various parts of the world who have firsthand experience and write him about it.

i cannot even be sure that my version of truth is the truthiest version of the truth out there. i cannot say much more about the people i know, even those personally affected by various events around the world. every time i feel confident about my beliefs, i remember rashomon.

everyone is affected by bias. the only way to avoid bias is to avoid observation.


You can't avoid bias, but there are certainly mitigation techniques.


how do you know those bias mitigation techniques are not skewed by bias? and if you verified it/came up with it yourself, how do you know you are not skewed by your own bias?


> There is not a technical solution to any of this.

I don't quite agree with that. In general, our best means of knowing with reasonable confidence whether some event being reported on is true is our confidence in the person telling us of the event. If it's someone we know personally, that's best. In a world of billions of people, that's not possible for most world events, so we can think of trust as being transitive. I can put more confidence in something that's reported by someone who is personally vouched for by a friend of mine, than something that's three steps removed, and so on.

The trouble is that our human brains are incapable of understanding social networks with more than a hundred or so people (i.e. Dunbar's number) and even those we have very imperfect understanding of. Computers don't have that limitation. Supposing you have a directed graph of every human who is willing to publicly vouch for the credibility of some other human, you can run something like PageRank on that to determine the degree to which you should trust some random reporter.

Better yet would be something like PageRank, but modified to handle anti-endorsements as well. There are ways to handle distrust in PageRank-like systems, but that's a little outside the scope of the point I'm trying to make.

Of course, collecting this directed graph of endorsements is outside the ability of a normal human, but sites like Facebook and LinkedIn have something like it. If they wanted to re-use that to create a news filtering service they probably could. On the other hand, the rest of us users would have no particular reason to believe they don't have their thumb on the scale, promoting news that serves their interests, or that they were paid to promote. So, I wouldn't say what I'm suggesting is purely a "technical solution", there are social and cultural aspects to it as well, but the one aspect of the problem -- that are human brains can't cope with large social networks -- is one that we can use computers to solve, if we have the right data.


> Supposing you have a directed graph of every human who is willing to publicly vouch for the credibility of some other human, you can run something like PageRank on that to determine the degree to which you should trust some random reporter.

I'm not sure that would work particularly well. People are often subject to Confirmation bias and Authority bias which lead them to put too much credibility on people who say what they want to hear or who hold a position o power.

Your idea would only work in a context where we can trust participants to make accurate judgements of credibility.


Wouldn't this directed graph endorsement approach just devolve into more followers = more endorsements? There's nothing built into the system to ensure quality whatsoever.


That's why I mentioned anti-endorsements. Pure PageRank doesn't have any notion of negative reputation, so by itself it's more of a popularity metric than a quality metric.


> The factual raw material can even be done away with sometimes as evidenced by how much of the news is just media reporting on itself (often centering on Twitter!).

For a concrete example of that, Deadspin in 2013 spelled out how ESPN created its own narrative to report on: https://deadspin.com/how-espn-manufactures-a-story-colin-kae...


I don't think we can know everything by any means, but I've started getting my news from subject matter experts who show their work & give full access to their research vs. the spectacle of corporate news.

I'll still skim for anything important, but I'm not even reading what they say, I'm looking for actual sources. Outlets that don't bother to give any sources are generally not worth reading.


Specialized publications. But you have to pay for them, and they typically aren't really the news, and use some jargon.


"The truth is paywalled, but the lies are free..."

https://www.currentaffairs.org/2020/08/the-truth-is-paywalle...


I am surprised at how few people understand this basic bit of economics - perhaps marketers are to blame for the obvious being inconceivable.

Just because you are paying more doesn't mean you will get more for it. If you go with a niche specialization you may well pay through the nose for very expensive lies. See Spectrum, the HIV-AIDS Denialism magazine that went defunct after all editors died of AIDS for an example.


Customers of newspaper pay for the political aligned viewpoint, most people like their viewpoint confirmed. Look out for people needing information to make money. Money does not care about political bias. E.g. I think the "financial times" quite unbiased (of course there is no perfection).


Political alignment isn't the problem. Every outlet will spin the same facts differently, sometimes intentionally sometimes not, because of this or that ideological commitment. They will choose which facts to foreground and which to background ("framing"), etc, etc, all that media studies stuff. Bias is fine. There is no such thing as an unbiased media outlet.

I'm talking about a different problem, which is that increasingly, the basic facts don't even enter into the discourse at all! That's the case because the institutions that used to carry out the basic functions of journalism are now facing tons of pressure to cut their costs, and all of that.

Disruptive "decentralization" pressure from the tech industry, often discussed as a "solution" to this mess, is actually a major cause. And it's of course not a solution at all because it has no answer to the basic material problem: once we've defunded traditional journalism, who is actually going to do the work? News is basically the production of information about the facts of unfolding world events. Now that we have no foreign correspondents etc, news ends up just being the production of information about the news itself (the only part left is the bias!). How long can we keep doing this, I wonder?


Friends, there is a solution!

- If you're a CONSERVATIVE, read liberal.

- If you're a LIBERAL, read conservative.

- If you're a proclaimed CENTRIST, read everything.

Schools don't teach us how to read and process information objectively but hopefully your first history professor explained that historical bias and bias in writing well...is human and old as history itself. Embrace it!

1. Check the veracity of claims and statements made in popular news stories, social media posts and political statements.

- https://www.snopes.com/

- https://www.factcheck.org/

- https://www.politifact.com/

2. Additionally, there is a separate body, International Fact-Checking Network, that checks the common fact-checking organizations above for bias and truth as well in their fact checking.

- https://www.poynter.org/ifcn/

- https://www.poynter.org/major-funders/

3. There's also the independently run MediaBiasFactCheck site which has found that the fact-checking sites above are pretty close to the center in their fact-checking and myth-busting.

- https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/

- https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/methodology/


Or simply ignore everything that isn't local?

The problem seems to be more centralisation of power and decision making. Consume information to act rather than sit and tweet.


The stuff you really have to worry about is the stuff that the liberal, right wing and centrist billionaire owned media outlets all agree upon or agree isn't important enough to talk about.

It's an interesting exercise to read contrasting viewpoints from opposing sides though (e.g. Russian media vs. American media on a us-russia conflict).


> Check the veracity of claims and statements made in popular news stories

using fact-checkers of even more dubious veracity?

https://www.politifactbias.com/


You could read wire services like Associated Press, Reuters, and United Press International, which are the sources from which mainstream outlets buy their news. Just be warned that the stories are exceptionally dry


I found a nice video recording the issue, the term is coined: firehose of falsehoods

https://youtu.be/nknYtlOvaQ0


I had exactly the same problem in Spain back then, then I started watching DW and the quality is superb. Give it a try, let me know what you think.


Sounds good. Those close to us are the most likely to have news that has actual significance to us. And are probably the most trustworthy.


> Sounds good. Those close to us are the most likely to have news that has actual significance to us. And are probably the most trustworthy.

So third-hand information from my InfoWars-reading brother and workplace rumors (or even worse, official workplace corporate communications)?


Fair enough. I think I worded my sentiment badly.


When I was 15, there was a bus bombing near my school.

A kid in my class was the grandson of a well known politician. A newspaper ran with a completely made up story about how it was his bus line, and how the grandfather had panicked. A few days later a fact checker called his mom. Not sure if they ran a retraction. It seemed incredibly disrespectful to those who were on the bus. Two died.

About a year after that, some kids that I knew were arrested for cannabis use. The story made the news. Some of it was true, but some was made up. The made up parts were embellishments, they made the story better. Age gaps were exaggerated, romantic narratives inserted...

I think most people who are in the vicinity of a news story irl have such experiences. Often the lies are minor, but just like with ordinary people who tell lies... the little lies make you disbelieve everything they say.

We kind of expect this from book authors and documentarians. Their job is to get a good narrative going. No one thinks "Tiger King" is an honest telling.

IMO the problem is expectations. "Restraining it (a newspaper) to true facts & sound principles only" is not just boring... it's unimportant. It's the narrative that makes it salient.

TJ should have understood this. He was a pamphleteer after all. The rights of man is pure fiction, to quote Yuval Noah Harari. If you dissect a person, you will find no rights inside.

Calling out intellectual dishonesty is a road to hypocrisy, usually. It's very common to have someone call it out and practice it simultaneously.


https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/65213-briefly-stated-the-ge...

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”


Is there a name for the opposite effect? If not, I propose the "Sinclair Effect" after "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

You open the newspaper to an article on some subject that you know well, because your salary depends on it. In Tourre's case, finance. In mine, tech. You read the article and see that the journalist isn't a subject matter expert and has made an error about some fact. Often, the error is so small that it doesn't affect the story at all. I call these the "well, actually, some streets are sheltered from the rain" stories. In any case, you dismiss the entire story and stop reading it, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if your technical expertise somehow gave you insight into a place you've never been and a culture you've never interacted with. You turn the page, and forget the gaps in your own knowledge.


> Is there a name for the opposite effect? If not, I propose the "Sinclair Effect" after "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it."

I think this is a fantastic comment, especially given the cavalcade of robotic quotations of that "Gell-Mann Amnesia effect" passage that happen whenever the press comes up. One should definitely read the newspaper with a certain degree of skepticism, but I feel that people who take the "Gell-Mann Amnesia effect" to heart often get into weird places (like thinking that reading raw scientific papers is somehow a replacement for reading the newspaper, as if anyone could actually keep up with them in more than a narrow area and science is the only thing that matters).

While I think the self-interest from the Sinclair quote is definitely a reason to doubt "Gell-Mann Amnesia effect" dismissals (i.e. maybe the story actually is right, but you think it's wrong because you have biased take), I think the problem you're getting at is ego. A lot of people want to be the guy who is smarter or sees things more clearly than others, so they latch on to ideas that let them superficially dismiss things that others trust as a way of proving their greater insight (maybe only to themselves).

I think it's useful to just see the news for what it is: a timely first rough draft of history. First rough drafts are always going to have errors, but you'll be the last to know if you wait for those to be corrected before reading. If you keep up with the rough drafts, you'll see the corrections as the stories unfold.


> I think it's useful to just see the news for what it is: a timely first rough draft of history.

Only, it's not what "the news" are. One can reconstruct the history using "the news" as source material, but it's a grave error to think that "the news" are "a first draft of history."

Try to find how the media covered the claimed "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq in 2003, and how they wrote many years later about the same events. What you believe to be a "first draft" was historically completely false. But it was at the time used as an excuse to start the war, which are both now verified historical facts -- both the fake "news" in the major media and the start of the war.

If you are interested in the topic you can even read how the local pressure on journalists makes them "following the editorial policy" even when they know that what they write about is false.

In short, there's no substitute for treating the news as only "pieces of information" which have to be verified, behind which could be different interests and which surely don't have to be true at all.


>> I think it's useful to just see the news for what it is: a timely first rough draft of history. First rough drafts are always going to have errors, but you'll be the last to know if you wait for those to be corrected before reading. If you keep up with the rough drafts, you'll see the corrections as the stories unfold.

> Only, it's not what "the news" are. One can reconstruct the history using "the news" as source material, but it's a grave error to think that "the news" are "a first draft of history."

> Try to find how the media covered the claimed "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq in 2003, and how they wrote many years later about the same events. What you believe to be a "first draft" was historically completely false. But it was at the time used as an excuse to start the war, which are both now verified historical facts -- both the fake "news" in the major media and the start of the war.

I don't really see how that contradicts the idea that the news is a rough first draft of history at all. First drafts have errors, and you've pointed out some errors. Similar things could even happen with established history (for instance a later discovery proving some document that the old history relied on was a forgery or some account unreliable, etc.). You shouldn't expect perfect accuracy with the news, and to criticize it for not being perfectly accurate is to misunderstand what it is.


> to criticize it for not being perfectly accurate is to misunderstand what it is.

I gave example where the news were completely and utterly false compared to what the real truth was -- that's not just "not perfectly accurate" but completely opposite of the truth.


> Try to find how the media covered the claimed "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq in 2003, and how they wrote many years later about the same events. What you believe to be a "first draft" was historically completely false. But it was at the time used as an excuse to start the war, which are both now verified historical facts -- both the fake "news" in the major media and the start of the war.

Really? My memory is that the media reports made it very clear that the "weapons of mass destruction" narrative was false; that was what the whole David Kelly affair was about.


The way I remember, the major media in the US claimed WMDs existed until the war progressed and nothing was found. Then, what you remember regarding Kelly you probably have read only later, that is, only after the start of the war, 19 March 2003.


This is why I am subscribed to two news papers from independent owners.

It doesn't help that much though, because the overlap between the two is a lot smaller than you would think, and a significant part of that overlap is content provided by a press service (which is often wrong itself).

Sometimes I wonder whether it even makes sense to try to follow the news. News by definition cannot be objective in how it describes the world, even when factually accurate, because the most important things in the world aren't the things that are novel and interesting, they're the things that are commonplace and boring. Maybe following the news makes us less informed because it biases us to pay attention to the wrong things.

On the other hand, how else do you get informed about going affairs? Most long-form books on a subject are themselves heavily biased to the author's viewpoint.


"He explains the irony of the term saying it came about 'because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have,'"


Interesting (and well written).

It had an opposite effect on me. Maybe because it wasn't a specialized are. It was just regular news.


It's interesting to me that Jefferson, in this text, offers an observation that's formulated very similar to (one-half of) the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, when he says:

"The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowlege with the lies of the day."

For hundreds of years, anyone with personal knowledge of a topic-reported-on knows much if not most of the reporting is wrong.


> IMO the problem is expectations. "Restraining it (a newspaper) to true facts & sound principles only" is not just boring... it's unimportant. It's the narrative that makes it salient.

> Calling out intellectual dishonesty is a road to hypocrisy, usually. It's very common to have someone call it out and practice it simultaneously.

You have a right to your opinion, of course, but frankly I find this revolting. There's a huge difference between recognizing that imperfect intellectual integrity and flawed critics are common, and dismissing the aspiration towards intellectual integrity as boring, unimportant, and hypocritical.

You don't have to deceive people to be interesting and successful. You just don't. And I think plenty of people manage to not live their lives that way.


I agree, its despicable. I would also suggest there is an enormous opportunity to make money for an organization that pursues and documents the truth, with integrity and to the the best of their ability. Society cannot possibly work if its members inhabit vastly incoherent bullshit bubbles and deep down inside we all know it.


I think you might be misunderstanding me.

">* dismissing the aspiration towards intellectual integrity*" is far from true. Intellectual integrity is crucial. I a deep sense, it's the main thing that matters.

I mean that a newspaper is a newspaper. A pamphlet is a pamphlet. An Encyclopedia is... etc. Moralizing about it doesn't help much. As TJ says in his speech.

Anyway, I mean this "for one's own sake." Our own Intellectual honesty is something most of us think we just have. In practice, it's a skill. Call outs like this aren't a good way of practicing it, IMO.


If you're just saying "this is how the world works" - yeah, maybe, but not everyone is the same. I'm sure there are some individual reporters and maybe, occasionally, even whole news orgs, that are trying to be better then this.


Not everyone is the same, but too many are. I have similar experiences of newpaper articles: whenever I happen to know the case in deeper detail, I find the newspaper reporting sloppy at best, and drama-seeking and distorting at worst.


I'm not saying everyone is the same, nor being cynical.

I'm saying that the standard TJ sets in the speech, and that most people instinctively judge newspapers by is an unreasonable one for a newspaper. He basically says this himself in the speech. Newspapers are not purely factual, by nature. If you want simple facts, you can read the wire services that newspapers often report based on.

Meanwhile, we wouldn't judge other things by this standard. The pertinent example (considering who is making this statement) is a political pamphlet. Honesty, intellectual and otherwise, is important here too. Some pamphleteers are more or less honest than others. But, we don't expect a purely factual and politically neutral pamphlet. When Jefferson wrote his own stuff, pamphlets, autobiography, etc.... he was working within that medium and the nature of the medium dictates a lot.

This position sometimes reduces to "newspaper are just illegitimate." I mean, if you want statistics on the epidemic... those are available. Read wikipedia^. No narrative. No hype. There are plenty who also tabulate and summarize these for you, including google. They just aren't newspapers.

It's (IMO) either intellectually dishonest or naive to want or expect a newspaper to do exactly what wikipedia does and no more. That isn't what a newspaper is.

In practice, this type of argument (I don't think this applies to TJ's speech) is usually made when someone dislikes a narrative. Either that or they're just sick of bad journalism. But, "just print the facts" isn't a newspaper. Newspaper write narratively. That's what they are. You can get "just facts" if you want. You just need to read something that isn't a newspaper.

^https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:COVID-19_pandemic_dat...


I've been in the vicinity of news/magazine press or knew the subjects personally about a dozen times.

In every single instance the facts were grossly misrepresented and in the three cases at Vice/Motherboard told the complete opposite story of the actual truth.

Vice's article about "Sugar Weasel, the One and Only Clown Escort" is a complete fabrication (well, other than his own self-delusions) and any basic fact checking shows the story to be false immediately.


I was interviewed by journalists twice, both times they published a text that contained some of my words but edited to make it say the opposite of what I actually said.

I wonder whether in ten years television will regularly use deepfakes when "interviewing" people, and we will feel equally hopeless about it.


Vice has that reputation.

This is the problem. There's plenty of newsrooms doing solid work. You can't do this any more than you can talk about restaurants while describing fast food burgers and a fancy tapas bar in the same sentence.

There's more interesting problems here. Outlets with actual scientists on staff do better science coverage, local institutions can cover a crisis with a better grasp on the context than a global organization that's sending reporters there for the first time. But before we can have that conversation we need to paint with a narrower brush.


Definitely. I've certainly found my own sources for the kinds of news that I'm interested in. A lot of it is independent journalists/*loggers.

Often enough I can check their sources and check multiple points of view on the same topic. The problem is that's a lot of work. Other people I might want to educate about the facts haven't put in that work -- they've just watched CNN/MSNBC/FOX or read the NYT/etc.

And most of those get it wrong.


Sure, and I won't defend cable news at all. The 24/7 realtime nature of what they do is set up to be superficial and error-prone.


This made me feel pretty uneasy about Wired's posthumous Holloway story.


I became interested in Jordan Peterson and the my Google feed noticed. The amount of fabrications that started popping in my feed, from famous outlets, opened my eyes to just corrupt the news media is. Its hard to overstate how despicable and toxic this is.


A friend of mine was once arrested and it made national news - multiple times (arrest, randomly later on, then trial, etc). What I observed:

1. They often got a lot of details wrong - details very relevant to how the public would perceive him. Easily verifiable details, BTW. A lot of it was just someone on the law enforcement/justice side making statements that they did not bother to verify.

1a. Some of these false facts are now part of his Wikipedia page, with several references to these news outlets. Be wary of facts on Wikipedia if the source is journalism.

2. The national news have a hive mind mentality. Between the arrest and the trial, he would suddenly become headline news, and often with no event triggering it. As if they all suddenly decided (on the same day) to just write a story about him. The reality is more likely laziness - one outlet decided to make it big news and others didn't want to be left behind.

2a. As an aside, another well known freelance journalist said this is common. He once had the scoop on a big story and was trying to sell it to the top news outlets. The most common question was "Is anyone else running this?" followed by "We don't want to be the only ones to run this." The concern was about being wrong in the end, but the facts were easily verifiable and the news outlet didn't want to go through the trouble.

2b. The random big news about my friend with no trigger? A number of times the same news outlet had reported the very same thing at the time of arrest months prior. It was basically recycled news, but presented as if it was breaking news.

3. The local newspapers were the best. They didn't report false facts - they verified them. They had the most detail (continual coverage over months rather than random sensational headlines).

That was 20 years ago. Something similar happened to another friend of mine recently. Half of the latest news reports about him have ridiculously wrong facts (year of arrest, time spent in prison, etc). Stuff that is trivially verifiable. His case was not as high profile. Lesson learned: News stories that are not as big are a lot more likely to have wrong information.

This experience (particularly the false facts) is why I'm adamant about suspending judgment prior to the trial. My sources (news) are unreliable.

(BTW, that first person was easily acquitted - the defense called only one witness, because the prosecution's case was so flawed).


The one time that something newsworthy happened in my life, we didn't speak to the press, because we didn't particularly want to. That's not a problem for them though, they literally just printed errors and completely made up quotes from us instead.

I guess I should be thankful. It's a valuable lesson to learn at a young age.


Reminds me of the opening text of Fargo.

> The events depicted in this film took place in Minnesota in 1987. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.

So solemn, so respectful and complete bs :D


Is there a word for that sort of cinematic (or in some cases literary) device? Opening with "disclaimer" style text to make the movie feel more real. It seems mockumentary adjacent - fiction presented as fact. Pseudo non-fiction?

I've seen it used in other films, too but the only example I can really think of is maybe the Blair Witch Project.



I was in the vicinity of a news story once and I interacted with the press. A reporter from a local news station. She asked me what I saw and took notes. There were two follow up questions: "did you notice anything else?", and that's it. The report didn't really include any of the extra details that I provided, just what you could see from the street. It included a clip from a different witness who was much more chatty and added their own... flair.

I say all this because in my limited experience, the embellishments come from average Joes who are eager to say such things to reporters.


I agree but I think it's both. Reporters will know if a witness/interviewee is too straightforward for their purposes and will move out until they find a juicy enough narrative. That way their ass is covered.


I have been interviewed twice for articles in Wired and once for Chemical and Engineering News. I was a first hand observer of an event reported in the Portland Oregonian when I was in high school.

I was not misquoted or otherwise misrepresented in the first three cases. In all of these cases I found the reporting to be accurate.

I do notice mistakes when news publications write about topics relevant to my expertise. But these mistakes often (though not always) would not change the conclusions of the article when corrected. A lot of the mistakes I notice are elementary ones like confusing units of energy and power. They indicate that the writer lacks a subject matter background but they don't invalidate the whole article. When an article says "The new wind farm will generate 180,000 megawatts per year, enough to supply 10,000 Texas households" it's clear enough that "180,000 megawatt hours per year" is what should have been written.

I know that other people have different experiences, where they find that their first hand knowledge of events has been completely twisted by news reporting. Or where their subject of expertise is reported incorrectly in mainstream publications all the time, not only in details but in the major conclusions. I wonder if these howlers are prevalent in online discussions of news accuracy simply because the howlers make for more vivid memories that will spur people to share their experiences in comments.


TJ: A newspaper should be divided into four sections (truths, probabilities, possibilities, and lies) https://jacklimpert.com/2017/02/newspaper-divided-four-secti...


I was once interviewed by a local newspaper. It was not a full-length interview. I just said something quotable as a bystander and so they asked me for some demographic information. I gave them three facts, my name, my age, and the town I lived in. Including my quote, I gave the journalist four facts.

When I read the article, I was horrified that two of the four facts, including a misquote of what I said, were wrong.


I don't quite follow how the narrative makes it more important than the facts.

I guess we have define what ideas we expect the news to deliver.


Many people die every day. This isn't news, nor is it meaningful to us on more than an ambient level.

The narratives that these deaths fit into make them meaningful. The stories of people dying of covid. People dying of political violence.

If drug deaths or suicide rates are increasing, and it's been making news then associated deaths are a part of this narrative.


Same experience here. I was a elected to a local board and was mentioned in several local newspaper stories. Every story that included events that I had personal knowledge of was incorrect, sometimes in very substantial ways.


On the contrary, lots of people think "Tiger King" is an honest telling.

Spend a little time on /r/conspiracy and consider that most of these people are not joking and their thinking is _entirely_ narrative driven.


> TJ should have understood this. He was a pamphleteer after all. The rights of man is pure fiction, to quote Yuval Noah Harari. If you dissect a person, you will find no rights inside.

What a fatuous remark. If you dissect a person, will you find numbers? Concepts? Why would you ever expect to find rights in a man as if they were organs? Naturally, a materialistic view of the universe will lead you down this path, but it's such a patently incoherent metaphysics that you can only wonder about the sanity of the materialist.


> I think most people who are in the vicinity of a news story irl have such experiences

What's funny though is that although this is true, we still tend to believe all other news stories as though they are 100% true.


Very true. A good author makes you suspend your disbelief. And a good journalist makes you suspend your Gell-Mann amnesia.


This is largely due to the wholesale destruction of the news industry by embarrassed capitalists and politicians over the last 30-40 years. Another reasons is that the same people have removed any ensemble of education which teach children to think even halfway critical about any topic.

We have journalists entering the workforce who have a good chance of having never consumed or witnessed any real journalism in their entire life.

So many of publications we used to know and love employed a sufficient amount of _professional_ copywriters, fact checkers, editors and so forth.

Editors were happy to let journalists take their time on stories that might not pay off for several years knowing it would pay to get things right.

Now-a-days, unless you work at the NYT, Guardian, or other company with mega-bucks and a robust subscription program you will probably never see a fact-checker, photographer, copywriter, and your editor will be not much more than an assembly line manager who may or may not care about the quality of the journalism you produce. If they do care, the likely have no leverage over the moneyed-interests who own the company.

A lot of people these days are not willing to pay for good journalism because they've been tricked into thinking they get "just as good" for free, which they most obviously do not.

And when they "discover" that their free news is run by rank amateurs who don't actually care about journalism and produce the kinds of things the OP rails against, it often seems to fester into a complete denunciation of the entire enterprise.

In fact, it is my belief that this is actually the goal of many unscrupulous practitioners of crappy journalism.

They know they can bankroll and support a crappy "news site" with the left hand and with the right hand use that to slowly tear down the firms putting out rigorous journalism, giving actual facts to citizens which show their ideology and politicians are nothing more than kleptocratic idiots.


Journalism has almost always been payed to a vast extent by advertisers, not subscribers. I don't think the decline in journalism is directly attributable to the pattern of free news.

More likely, it is due to the progressing obsession with profit, metrics-driven businesses. Papers are for-profit companies, so any change they can do that help their bottom line will always win out. We can make more money if we run aggressive titles? Done. We can save money by getting rid of seasoned professionals and people won't stop reading and looking at our ads? Awesome!

Not to mention, the extent to which journalism has declined is probably exaggerated. The style is obviously changing, and it may be more popular and crass. But journalism has always been extremely biased for the status quo, with many events that ruin the common narrative being systematically ignored. A lot of the problems caused by the US military and companies in South America was long ignored in mainstream journalism in the US in the 70s and 80s, just as one example. Watergate was huge news for years, COINTELPRO was quickly forgotten.


> This is largely due to the wholesale destruction of the news industry by embarrassed capitalists and politicians over the last 30-40 years

I'm familiar with HN commenters not reading the linked article, but this is the first time I'm coming across a commenter not reading the title.


It's just so sad. The biggest one lately for me has been watching the riots which are happening all over the US. The really crazy thing is that all of these things are livestreamed usually by 10s of people in every city, who are standing a few feet from the people burning buildings and attacking people. You can virtually attend all of these things from your office.

To watch buildings burning, people chanting that they want to abolish the police, or burn peoples homes "fire fire gentrifier.", "out of your homes and into the streets" (while throwing things at windows, spray painting the outsides of homes, and shooting fireworks at homes), "all cops are bastards" etc.

And then to see reported in the news that these people are "peaceful". It's a sort of paranoid schizophrenia that I think we're seeing. People are watching their own cities burn, then reading CNN say that it's all fake, and that there is such a thing as peaceful arson, or a peaceful riot, that somehow looting is justified, and repeating that.

The news isn't just wrong at this point, they are actively trying to mislead people. It's really, really awful.


Don't think that just because you're your own editor you can't be deceived by editing. You're feeding yourself with the material that you're seeking out.

edit: just spend a day only looking up the millions peacefully marching, rather than the 10s of right-wing livestreams. (Also, give me some information about the people you've seen attacking and burning private residences, because I don't know of a single example of this.)

After the day you can go back to watching what you normally watch, but if you can't find all of these boring people walking through the streets with signs, I don't know what to tell you. If the millions protesting actually had the aim of burning middle-class people out of their homes, middle-class people would have been burned out of their homes.

If there's any problem imo, it's that the protests are generally unfocused street wandering. If there were a specific focus or target, they would be effective at accomplishing that target. But when the target becomes anything other than generalized racism, the ad-hoc coalitions fall apart.


If someone was peaceful all day and then commits murder, maybe the murder only takes 5 minutes, or 30 seconds ... would you proceed to characterize their day as mostly peaceful?

I mean, mathematically yes, but it points to how this word ‘mostly’ is what journalism teaches is a weasel-word. It renders the statement meaningless.


Well there is your problem - you are literally treating a large collection of very different people like a single person or hive mind.

Seriously pause and reflect since that usually comes up with very severe bigots and is pretty far down the dehumanization ladder.


Not at all, I am protesting an abuse of the language that makes for a nearly Orwellian level of nonsense in thinking and speech.

‘Most of the protestors were non-violent’ is an intelligible and probably accurate statement.

‘Mostly peaceful protests’ first of all intrinsically refers to the protest as a singular entity, not addressing the individuality. That’s not my doing, that’s in the phrase, making the protest the subject, as opposed to the people.

Secondly if you reread what I wrote, my main complaint is that the word ‘mostly’ is what journalistic editors refer to as a ‘weasel-world’. Weasel words make a statement that sounds descriptive but in fact could apply to almost anything.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weasel_word

Moving past semantics, it is worth noting that the violent protestors would be completely ineffectual without masses of nonviolent protestors to hide among.

Anyway, I would love it if this writing falls on receptive eyes, I am concerned that the implication you made: that what I am writing is bigoted, could indicate you are not very interested in what I actually mean.


Yes, the protests are 'mostly peaceful' and any violence is due to reactionaries.


I don't think anyone is claiming the protests are 100% peaceful. The question, then, is how much violence occurs relative to total protest activity?

If fewer than 50% of protestors engage in violence, wouldn't it then be accurate to describe the protest as 'mostly peaceful'?


> I don't think anyone is claiming the protests are 100% peaceful.

Some people certainly are, I've heard a few people who attended the riots in Seattle claim the police were the only ones rioting. They're very adamant about that 'only' and any evidence to the contrary is met with "well he's a cop in disguise." It's a case of No True Protestor.

It's very tiresome when people demand you believe their transparent bullshit.


It gives a false impression. If even a few percent of 10s of thousands of protesters is looting and rioting that can do enormous damage.


So the ‘few bad apples’ argument is valid for police force that they’re protesting, but not for the protestors?


What about those that try to escalate things and aren't affiliated with the protests?


I think your comment here perfectly illustrates exactly the problem I'm talking about.

>rather than the 10s of right-wing livestreams.

These aren't "right wing livestreams". It's people, at the protests, with cameras. Some of the bigger ones are people like Unicorn Riot, who has been active in Minneapolis for quite some time, and Regg Ikagnedo.

In some cases, the "press" end up being protestors themselves and end up fighting with the police. I really struggle to understand why you would cast any of this as right wing.


Indeed. And the fact that large scale peaceful protests are happening is irrelevant to the point here. The fact is that some violent protests are happening, but some of the media is flatly denying there is any violence happening whatsoever.


Exactly - but they do it because "the other side" is trying to show protests as exclusively violent because it serves the narrative that "normal" and "peaceful" people don't have reasons to protest, only violent criminals. So it's a vicious cycle where objectivity is nowhere near the top of priorities, which is naive to expect even outside of it, given how mainstream media functions and is funded today.


> rather than the 10s of right-wing livestreams

What? Are you seriously claiming that all of the livestreams that display riots are from right wind people? And even if they were, would it mean that they are fake or what?

Anyway, you can just go and see some of the aftermath images that the media publish.


That does not match my experience at all with the many peaceful protests in SF lately. Your sources may be cherry-picking to push a certain political narrative.


I'm genuinely happy that SF is seeing peaceful protests, but I spent 2 weeks driving through National Guard checkpoints in my city due to violent unrest, and I'm aware of at least 5 other cities who were similarly affected. Minimizing the presence of violence on either side is wrong. The "few bad apples" narrative doesn't work for cops or protesters, or we wouldn't be seeing what we're seeing.


The police and the general population have very different flavors of bad apple.

The "good" protestors have no ability nor obligation to remove or control the "bad" ones. It's shameful that some see fit to dismiss the message of them all for the actions of a few. And anyway, the goodness or badness of violent or riotous protests through the lens of history is more than a little bit complicated.

The police do have such an ability and obligation. They are organized and they are in a position of power. It is shameful that some see fit to excuse the entire enterprise because not all cops are bad.

Neither is as simple as that.


The complete disregard for locality and generalizations over an entire continent-sized country don't help either. It's like if a report on the Belarus election situation was used to insist the entirety of the EU was collapsing, while at the same time a report over protests in, I dunno, Sweden was used to show that everything in Belarus is peaceful.


Hilariously - the protests really are mostly peaceful and the police really are mostly good.


To be clear, it is not that bad, which is the point. Many cities protested without these issues. Most protesters are nonviolent. Most cops are not directly evil (murder, assault, intimidation).


Probably because what happens on a single city street or block isn't reflective of the thousands of other streets and blocks in the city and the dozens of people involved aren't reflective of the thousands upon thousands who are peaceful and justifiably angry about the current state of policing in the USA.


Maybe take a weekend and go to a protest yourself?

I think you would be pleasantly surprised.


It's really disheartening. Until recently I lived in Capitol Hill, Seattle, 4 or 5 blocks away from CHAZ/CHOP. I saw with my own eyes what was happening. I saw with my own eyes buildings get set on fire multiple times within a block of my apartment. I saw with my own eyes the riots, looting, violence, nightly political shows of force. Just two days ago they were molotov cocktailing a police precinct. There's even video evidence of all of this.

Yet all I read about on mainstream news is how it's actually mostly peaceful. I see Facebook friends who live 2000 miles away from Seattle re-posting news articles about how there's nothing really going on in Seattle. But I've seen with my own eyes what's going on.

It's really approaching a 1984 level of situation, where we're expected to just believe whatever we're told, even if we obviously see the problems. Where everybody is supposed to just accept what the media is telling us, rather than what we can see is happening. If they want something to disappear (like rioters throwing molotov cocktails) they just don't report on it, and it ceases to exist. But you can bet if a Republican starting throwing molotovs for their political beliefs it'd be front-page CNN for days on end. It's all so political and so manipulative.


It's not that I don't believe you, it's that I would love to see the videos of this happening and not just you promising me super hard that you saw it with my own eyes (which you somehow dropped 4 times in your post)


I've had people online tell me that I definitely could not have seen the numerous peaceful protests that have happened in Portland, and that I'm a lying shill for observing that the city I live in is in fact not a burnt-out hellhole patrolled by antifa death squads.


[flagged]


GP is making points that go against the common narrative, this is guaranteed to get downvotes.

Might be a shill, but more likely just a contrarian who isn’t being well treated on HN.


I would bet the press is talking about different people than the ones you are watching.


It’s not that hard to find examples. There are even left leaning reporters who are truly dumbfounded by the spin.

https://twitter.com/mtaibbi/status/1300243540497166341?s=20


Which examples and which left-leaning reporters?


This dovetails with something I've been thinking much about recently: providing a classical education, or at least a dose of it, to my kids. Jefferson was a big proponent of this as well [0]

My reasoning is that there are few other venues that young people, in their formative years, encounter such examples of deep critical thinking. I used to think it snobbery to reference Socrates/Plato/Aristotle, etc. But reading the Republic, Apology, Ethics, etc. really prompts you to think about your life and how it relates to other in a society in a very meaningful way. It also teaches you to be more critical of all ideas.

It seems to me that such perspectives are more important now than they've ever been. Jefferson and others have espoused the idea that an educated populace is required for a functioning democracy. While that may have been true in the 18th century, it is certainly more poignant in a world where people have an instant and unending stream of comment and opinion coming to them wherever they are.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Jefferson_and_education...


A classical and a mythological education are both important and missing today. I wrote recently:

> A mythological education is distinct from the common school subjects. It builds in the mind intuition for second-order effects, for the first lesson a child learns from one hundred stories is that every thing you do will have unintended consequences, something years of schoolwork fails to teach. Myths give us shared art and common culture—a set of characters with which we can play in and enjoy together. In any culture rich with myths, their vocabulary is enlarged far beyond words, to allegories and metaphors. The quality of thought follows.

(To this end I've been writing a book of fables, mostly for my children, but serializing them by newsletter right now, which is turning out more popular than I expected.)


I think this is very insightful, and is touched on quite a bit in Harari's Sapiens, which is alluded to in a sibling to parent post, which also mentions Jefferson: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24364993

I picked up an old copy of Grimm's Tales on a whim and read some every now and then before bedtime. Also Aesop's fables just to refresh my memory of them. I enjoy them both and think it's a worthwhile format.


Darmok and Gilad, at Tinagra.

This has been a discussion for some time with my friends, the utility of religion in humanity for social purposes and communications purposes.

I hadn't thought much of the importance of "studying the classics" to the ends of teaching cultural vocabulary, but I do think critical thinking and logic should be core subjects like math and reading.


> Myths give us shared art and common culture—a set of characters with which we can play in and enjoy together. In any culture rich with myths, their vocabulary is enlarged far beyond words, to allegories and metaphors.

Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra


This reminds me of a T.S. Eliot quote

> Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

> Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?


We have a hard time talking to each other these days (eg, Republicans vs Democrats in US).

So I also feel that education, specifically a liberal arts foundation, could broaden people’s minds so that we’re not just shouting at each other, but can actually converse as somewhat rational beings.


But this boils down to initially defining the "purpose" of education. The US can't even agree on what the purpose of education is. Many see it as you do - broaden minds and encourage thinking. Many others see it as life-skills 'training' designed to teach adult survival skills. Still others think education should point specifically, and directly to work, or, in other words, be 'job-skills' based.

We don't even have a clear understanding of what is best, nor do we have an agreement on when each serves its best purpose. The whole thing is a mess.


Just the USA? Humanity has differences on the purposes of education. For example, should education only be for men? In some parts of the world, yes.

>The whole thing is a mess.

Then let's use different terms to refer to the reality of these differences. Here's a first crack:

Educating includes broadening minds and encouraging thinking.

Training includes the dictation of knowledge and application of specific skills.

Learning "life-skills" is a specific but important part of training.

All educating includes training, but not all training includes education.

The terms "education" and "training" are often conflated and should not be.


Unschooling/Home-schooling + https://www.sjc.edu/ (if they want to) IMO


Looking at https://www.sjc.edu/academic-programs/undergraduate/great-bo..., this is definitely a good list of "foundational texts of Western civilization" as they say, but the world is a lot more interconnected than it was in 1696, and this curriculum leaves out most of it. There's nothing wrong with studying one part of the world or one community of ideas as long as you're open about it, but I don't think I would be comfortable calling this a well rounded education in the modern world.

The about page says "students study the works of history’s greatest thinkers." I mean, come on. There's not a single "great thinker" in all of history outside of Europe, the Roman Empire, and the US? How are you supposed to defend the ideas of Western Civilization if you have no idea what the alternatives are?

It reminds me a little of some culinary schools where the whole curriculum is based on French cooking, and you take like one class on "global cuisine" that covers the entire rest of the world. You can't pick one focus area and claim it's all you need for a full education.


> It reminds me a little of some culinary schools where the whole curriculum is based on French cooking, and you take like one class on "global cuisine" that covers the entire rest of the world. You can't pick one focus area and claim it's all you need for a full education.

Who said school had anything to do with having a full education? That's kind of the whole point of the unschooling movement.

Culinary Schools primarily focus the curriculum around French cooking because thats the predominant skillset that you will be required to know to work in a volume, commercial kitchen. French cooking training is a broad test of their ability to execute important techniques. It's fitting the curriculum to the students and the expectations that they have.

If you're in culinary school to begin with, you probably care about food and you will be able to teach yourself the rest from that base.

SJC is the same way. They're fitting the curriculum to the expectations and desires of their incoming students. The whole point of that education is to teach you how to think for yourself, not to fill your head with data points.

School, ...ANY... school, is just about establishing a baseline to make you comparable against your peers. Rigorous education has very little to do with it.

In both cases, I don't think you really understand the point of what you're looking at.


> Who said school had anything to do with having a full education?

A few quotes from the website:

"With interdisciplinary, world-changing teachers like Einstein, Descartes, and Socrates, St. John’s students have a competitive advantage in any field."

"Offering comprehensive undergraduate and graduate liberal arts programs"

"Our liberal arts undergraduate program is a truly comprehensive education that is perhaps the most rigorous in America."

"St. John’s College is persuaded that a genuine liberal education requires the study of great books—texts of words, symbols, notes, and pictures—because they are both timeless and timely. These books are the most important teachers. They illuminate the persisting questions of human existence and they bear directly on the problems we face today. They express most originally, and often most perfectly, the ideas by which contemporary life is knowingly or unknowingly governed. Their authors can speak to us almost as freshly as when they spoke for the first time, for what they have to tell us is not of merely academic concern, nor is it remote from our true interests. They change our minds, move our hearts, and touch our spirits."

This statement is especially grandiose: https://www.sjc.edu/application/files/2615/9916/9280/St_John...

> If you're in culinary school to begin with, you probably care about food and you will be able to teach yourself the rest from that base.

I know many people who went to culinary school in America because they were inspired by the food they grew up with and wanted to learn more so they could start a restaurant or study it or something, and were disappointed when it was mostly French cooking and their culture was barely touched on. In that case, the school did not fit their expectations and desires. I'm sure that culinary schools meet most student's expectations or they wouldn't continue to exist, but I think it's worth mentioning that all the top schools seem to follow the same basic pattern, at least from what I've been told. It's not like you can pick the French school or the West African school or the Japanese school when you're an American looking to enter a school in your country. Anyway I think I should stop talking about this because I really don't know much about culinary schools, I just meant it as a loose analogy.

> SJC is the same way. They're fitting the curriculum to the expectations and desires of their incoming students. The whole point of that education is to teach you how to think for yourself, not to fill your head with data points.

I'm not sure what you mean by data points, but I guess what I'm saying is if I wanted to design a curriculum around the fundamentals of thinking for myself, I would want to make it as varied and and broad as possible. I want to know how everybody thinks, not just people near me. If I'm reading the foundational texts of American history, I also want to read those of Chinese history. I want to read the Koran along with the Bible (and maybe multiple translations/interpretations of each). I want to read Ramayana along with the Iliad.

I understand that not everybody wants the same things as me! Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with studying Western thought. I just think it's wrong to talk about the greatest books and thinkers and teachers when there's an implicit "of the Western canon" next to each of those. Just be open about it, and it's ok.

> School, ...ANY... school, is just about establishing a baseline to make you comparable against your peers.

No modern student should believe that their only peers are Western-educated.

> In both cases, I don't think you really understand the point of what you're looking at.

I guess I agree.


> I know many people who went to culinary school in America because they were inspired by the food they grew up with and wanted to learn more so they could start a restaurant or study it or something, and were disappointed when it was mostly French cooking and their culture was barely touched on. In that case, the school did not fit their expectations and desires. I'm sure that culinary schools meet most student's expectations or they wouldn't continue to exist, but I think it's worth mentioning that all the top schools seem to follow the same basic pattern, at least from what I've been told. It's not like you can pick the French school or the West African school or the Japanese school when you're an American looking to enter a school in your country. Anyway I think I should stop talking about this because I really don't know much about culinary schools, I just meant it as a loose analogy.

It's not much different than people who aimlessly go to college without a specific goal in mind. It's a hilariously reckless thing to do and really naive.

All of these schools are really upfront about what their curriculum is before you apply.

Are we really advocating for catering to people who do not do their due diligence?


Maybe we can agree that there's concerns on both sides. You shouldn't join a college without researching it, and colleges should try their best to represent themselves as transparently as possible.

Personally I also hold college administrators to higher standards than high school students.


I’ve noticed this to be a common criticism of collections of western thought. It has some validity.

Do you know of any similar lists for eastern thought? I know of some of the big eastern authors but I’d love an equivalently better list of “Great Books” for the eastern tradition.


I don't, I meant to ask about that. I'm sure there are similar lists, I wonder if there are good ones in English though.

I really don't have a problem with a collection of Western thought, I just feel like this is pretty explicitly framed as a complete education, the greatest ideas in history, etc. Just be open about what the focus is and what it leaves out.


"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." Thomas Jefferson

"Once a newspaper touches a story, the facts are lost forever, even to the protagonists." Norman Mailer

"Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilisation." George Bernard Shaw

"In the real world, the right thing never happens in the right place and the right time. It is the job of journalists and historians to make it appear that it has." Mark Twain

"I fear three newspapers more than a hundred thousand bayonets." Napoleon

"If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing." Malcolm X

"The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands." Oscar Wilde

"The lowest depth to which people can sink before God is defined by the word journalist." Soren Kierkegaard

"Whenever I thought of you I couldn't help thinking of a particular incident which seemed to me very important. . . . you made a remark about 'national character' that shocked me by its primitiveness. I then thought: what is the use of studying philosophy if all that it does for you is to enable you to talk with some plausibility about some abstruse questions of logic, etc., & if it does not improve your thinking about the important questions of everyday life, if it does not make you more conscientious than any . . . journalist in the use of the DANGEROUS phrases such people use for their own ends." - Wittgenstein

"The newspaper epitomises the goal of today’s educational system, just as the journalist, servant of the present moment, has taken the place of the genius, our salvation from the moment and leader for the ages." - Nietzsche

https://web.archive.org/web/20180327031901/http://www.aarons...


I've been thinking about this topic a lot lately. It seems to me that the nefarious ways in which modern media operates are responsible for a large portion of the problems we see in the world today.

That's because the world in general is doing better than ever in almost any measurable parameter, yet the general notion is that everything is going to shit. This has real world consequences such as violent riots, couples deciding not to bring a child into "this terrible world", depression etc.

The mere choice of what is news worthy and how much coverage any one item gets already warps the mind's heuristics about how often this type of event occurs and thus how important it is. Add to that the "artistic licence" that reporters take (maliciously or otherwise) and the situation becomes really dire.

The reason for this problem is that society has decided that news should be a form of entertainment, and news outlets are for-profit companies. Considering these incentives the current state seems inevitable.

This has also led me to think of hypothetical solutions. I would argue that "The News" should be a non-profit, state funded entity (or entities). However, these must very much not be state controlled but rather allowed to operate independently. A similar institution is the Judicial System, which doesn't need to worry about clickbaiting titles for its rulings in order to fund itself, yet it has, ideally, full autonomy to procecute people in power if the need arises and we (society) take any attempt of collusion between state and court to be unacceptable.

Similarly, an independent yet tax funded news agency can deliver boring, unentertaining news and facts to help save us from ourselves.


> That's because the world in general is doing better than ever in almost any measurable parameter, yet the general notion is that everything is going to shit.

If you're interested in reading more about this phenomenon, I'd recommend Factfulness by Hans Rosling. He discusses how statistics are often presented pessimistically, but if you look at our world as a complete system over time, things really are better than they've ever been in most cases. We just tend to overlook slow and steady improvement because it's boring, as you mention. And, his first global risk we should be on the lookout for is "global pandemic" (published 2018), so that's gotta count for something in supporting his arguments.


I think there are plenty of things going wrong in the world as it exists today, at least as an American, that would dissuade me from having children. The exploding costs of childcare, healthcare, and education, let alone the impending crisis of climate change and ecological collapse, are all pretty scary. None of those things need to be exaggerated by the media.


I tend to think this proves the point.

Healthcare and childcare and education are in fact (largely though not comprehensively) nonessential goods that are already in very many ways far better than they were 50 years ago. Childcare wasn't even a thing except for the incredibly wealthy until pretty recently. It would be very difficult to argue that the overall options for post-secondary education (and the number of people taking advantage of them) are not better than 30 years ago, even though their costs are known to be rising much faster than their quality. Most of the kinds of healthcare that are clearly price-gouging were not even categories of healthcare 50 years ago, and most of the ones that were are so qualitatively better now that we're comparing apples and oranges. Etc.

Climate change is the one where by almost any objective measure we're headed for potentially irrecoverable catastrophe, and yet this one doesn't actually receive media coverage commensurate with the weight of the potential risk and its probability.


Saying things like, "look, it really is better!" when wages haven't gone up in 50 years as college has gotten twice as expensive in the last 20 I think is really missing the point and being overly dismissive of people's life experiences.

Price gouging because kinds of healthcare most people weren't really getting a few years ago? My best friend was billed 1100 dollars for an ambulance ride and 4000 dollars for a recent hospitalization that lasted 12 hours. Get out of here with this dismissive nonsense.


> when wages haven't gone up in 50 years

This argument is made time and time again as though it's a self-evident truth...except it's not true at all. The inflation-adjusted median personal income is higher than it's ever been.

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MEPAINUSA672N

The median disposable income in the US is in the top 3 in the world: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disposable_household_and_per_c...

Since 1967, the middle class has been shrinking...because the upper class has been growing:

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/01/25/upshot/shrink...

Yes, college has gotten more expensive (and there are a lot of reasons why), but it's also worth contextualizing: the median number of years to recoup the cost of a bachelors degree, adjusted for inflation, has gone down since the 1980’s, from about 22 years to about 10 years.

https://libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org/2014/09/the-va...

This is all information you're not going to read in most news media today, because it's, well, pretty boring and doesn't generate revenue.

Yes, there are always improvements that we need to make. Healthcare is indeed a bit of a mess. There are a number of ways to fix it (and not just the one proposal you keep hearing about). Does that mean society is crumbling? Absolutely not. We're living in just about the best time in human history. But climate change is very real, and just about the most catastrophic thing we have to worry about.


not intending to dismiss real challenges! merely pointing out that often news media talk about these things like society is crumbling, when they really aren't indicative of that.


By the American Revolution, newspapers were getting closer to our modern perception of them. But for the hundreds of years between their ostensible invention in Germany and the late 18th century they were quite different. Many only reported foreign news (in part to avoid domestic topics that may have been more sensitive). They offered very little in terms of editorial. In France, one particularly dull one was granted a monopoly, stopping competition.

Andrew Pettegree's Invention of the News covers this in much greater detail: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/feb/19/invention-news...

One other interesting anecdote from the book: For quite some time, the identity of who was conveying the news was paramount. A nobleman's wild story would be given more stock from contemporary audiences than several eyewitness accounts from commoners.


Fake News is far more common than people think (not just the Gell-Mann effect, but that helps...) I quit trusting anything I saw in the media in 1998, when my wife and I saw NBC totally faking a hurricane report in Corpus Christi. The reporter was in a rain slicker, and there was a lackey standing off-camera with a hose spraying water. Corpus was on the dry side of a hurricane deep in the Gulf that wound up hitting near Yucatan - winds were up, but there wasn't a cloud for 400 miles. Fake News then, even faker news now.


Actual news these days comes from message boards such as this.

TV / Radio news is little better than entertainment.

The trouble the news industry is having is that you can get an equal amount of information from social media without all the holier-than-thou garbage coming from news anchors.


I don't feel that way. Social media circulates a lot of weird takes. For the many, many hot topics of 2020, I hear a lot of opinions that are something like, I'm bored of this so it's not important and it's all fake news anyway so I can make up my own story. That's a take that sounds like it should be quiet but it's instead really noisy.

Not really a replacement for quality journalism.


> Not really a replacement for quality journalism.

The trouble (in my opinion) is that major networks don't really offer much in the way of "quality journalists."

They've mostly devolved into getting hot takes from pundits and "rah rah our team is great".

I listen to (and donate to) NPR (Iowa Public Radio specifically) because I think they are about as good as you can get for "quality journalism", but even their work devolves into garbage as soon as politics or culture come into play.

It probably doesn't help that a few years ago they redid their program structure to focus less on news and more on "think pieces" [1]

[1] https://www.npr.org/sections/publiceditor/2018/08/16/6392099...


I don't know why, but the thought that 'trustworthy' news sources are pseudo-anonymous or actually anonymous sources on a message board scares the ever-loving-shit out of me.


A primary concern with "the news" is that it has no incentive to be correct, especially when it is reporting on predictions. Consider a situation where a respected economist releases a report that predicts a high likelihood of economic recession. "The news" will circulate something like "HIGH PROBABILITY OF RECESSION, SAYS FAMED ECONOMIST". The impending recession will be the talk of the people for the next several weeks.

If the recession arrives, "the news" will report on the economic bloodbath, credit itself for reporting on the prediction of the recession in a timely manner, and give itself awards for accuracy in reporting.

If the recession does not arrive, "the news" will report on the surprising market strength and why economists predicted the future incorrectly, credit itself for reporting on the inaccuracy of our once-great financial system, and give itself awards for accuracy in reporting.


A related aspect is that a nice, solid, impartial fact-based news organization will often report on what various public figures have said. Since they are impartial, objective, and just reporting the facts, they will of course refrain from commenting on the truth of said declarations - that would be the reporter's biases showing!

"X says Y" is objective news. "Y is actually not true" is journalists showing their biases!


You're right. It gets really gnarly, really quickly. "X says Y" is objective news, but it is extremely difficult to evaluate Y without deep knowledge of both the background of Y and the reliability of X.

"Y is actually not true" is partial, biased journalism, but can also serve as critical information about the truth of Y, or the reliability of X!

The safest bet is to be aware of what the news is claiming, but remember at all times that the news is a signal repeater, not a signal generator. Whenever possible, one must find primary documents or videos.


I would pay quite a bit for a newspaper in Jefferson's proposed format. To be quite certain that something is true for current events, the reports on those events would likely have to be delayed days or weeks after they broke. I would be fine with that and is the complete opposite of today's instant, viral seeking, click-bait, emotionally charged media landscape.

Edit:It would be even better if this paper was connected to a prediction market where people could bet real money on if the "Truths" and "Probabilities" events will be shown to be false at certain time steps in the future.


The closest thing might be the bloomberg terminal. It costs 2k a month, but you can get a news feed of the topics you care about and it will be accurate and factual. And then people instantly make bets based on that news.


> it will be accurate and factual

We're still waiting for the Supermicro retraction.


That was a "hard to believe this is true, but it is in Bloomburg" moment for me.

A nice summary of the situation a year after the article came out in 2018 can be found here[1]. I wonder what their rational for not retracting the story. Just one little line somewhere that few would notice would have put the controversy to rest, but if they did it now. so late after the fact, it would just add to the intrigue instead of diffuse it.


2k a month is not in my current (one can dream) budget for news sources, but I would like to check one out sometime. I don't need the real time option, which is much of what people pay the 2k for, so maybe a 15 minute delay option, like there used to be with free stock quotes, could be a lot cheaper.


It is always, always worth remembering the truly vituperous hatred of the election of 1800. (and the fact that newspapers were truly partisan outfits)

"don't vote for that guy, he's a french traitor who burns bibles! if you elect jefferson, rape and murder will be legal!"

"oh yeah? well, my opponent's gunning to marry his kid off to the british crown and make us colonists again and establish an Adams dynasty!"


This of course has echoes in the present. I think the public may not be better informed/closer to the truth than 20 years ago, but not much worse either. A lot of things probably just weren't widely reported or could stay under the radar before the internet and social media took over. Now when "undesirable news" inevitably gets out, it has to be countered with contradictory narratives and misinformation. It's gotten to the point that aligning yourself politically one way or the other implies you must adopt a volume of their favored fiction in addition to a shared interpretation of the real facts.


> "It's gotten to the point that aligning yourself politically one way or the other implies you must adopt a volume of their favored fiction in addition to a shared interpretation of the real facts."

being truly independent is a lonely row to hoe in my experience. nobody likes or trusts you, because you're not all in on their side. despite this very real cost, more and more people are adopting an indepedent stance, which i find hopeful.


Those that adopt an independent stance are often much more agreeable to get along with.

After all, they aren't usually the ones interjecting political nonsense into discussions every chance they get.


"If You Don’t Read the Newspaper You Are Uninformed, If You Do Read the Newspaper You Are Misinformed" Mark Twain


One source of geopolitical information I've found to be head and shoulders above the mainstream media is Stratfor. Now before you hit the downvote button and reply "You idiot, it's run by the CIA", hear me out.

I got a free trial a few year back and was pretty impressed with: 1) the level of detail, 2) the attempt at focusing on facts 3) the lack of "this is what it means".

I was reading an article on stability in Afghanistan and it read like "There are 5 warlords...the warlord in Eastern Afghanistan is X, and used to be aligned with Y, but is now aligned with Z, because of...". It didn't hesitate to go back 50 years to provide context for a given fact. And there wasn't a lot of "this person is good and this person is bad".

If you're not interested in the topic it's pretty damn dry reading, but if you are interested, the level of detail is impressive and I came away actually knowing more than when I started.

Now of course there is bias in the reports and it will be presented through the filter of Western intelligence agencies, but if they do cover a topic you want more information on, I highly recommend checking it out.


I don't understand how we as a society turn a blind eye to being surrounded by lies and misdirection. It's well known to be a folly and well documented that governments the world over abuse their position of first hand knowledge to redirect and re-cast truth, and manipulate public opinion in their favour[1][2].

Perhaps at my age I have come to see patterns and have come to understand that pretty much everything I don't have first hand experience of is likely to be distorted to a lesser or greater extent. This is not only true of news and public discourse, but also in my personal life. People naturally bend reality to fit their beliefs, world views, and often to just tell a good story.

I am sure many adults are aware of this, but we never really talk about it. Children are not educated about the nature of this problem. We are not taught to think about the nature of information we consume, and yet many of us know our lives are surrounded by lies and manipulators.

Manipulative advertising and government deception, both of which have reams of psychological research backing their strategies, dominate a majority of our lives and yet we don't educate each other as such.

I am very sad to come to realize that TV shaped my beliefs growing up, and it was mostly based on myths driven by advertising dollars. Obviously entertainment is not going away, and nor should it, but we should have discourse highlighting who drives the narrative. One of the few facts we can know is little of what we learn is truly verifiable - knowing that is hugely helpful and allows us to make better decisions about what we value in life.

[1] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/03/31/who-lied-to-wh... [2] https://www.usni.org/magazines/naval-history-magazine/2008/f...


Well stated.


Most of the comments here are missing a big part of the context: newspapers in the early 1800s didn't do journalism as we know it today. Most relied entirely on rumors and letters that crossed their desk, combined with cribbing old stories from the foreign press. Newspaper staff was often just one or two people doing the writing, marketing, and distribution (and often the typesetting too). There wasn't this idea that a journalist should be conducting interviews or investigating stories or even arriving at the scene of anything. Most papers were funded largely by political patronage as well.

For a great book on the history of American journalism I recommend "Infamous Scribblers" by Eric Burns.


What’s more insidious than the accuracy of what you read in the media is the control the media has on what they actually cover.

If you cast a wide enough net, it pretty quickly becomes apparent that the media is very selective about what they cover. One human rights issue may get front page coverage, while another is completely ignored.

The vast majority of people think they are focused on important issues, when in fact, they are just focused on what the media tells them is important.


News organizations have to compete for people's attention so they present the news in a way that impacts people's emotions most strongly. Fear is a favorite subject. Most news is framed in a way that highlights how it MAY negatively effect the reader. FEAR is a very effective way to get and keep people's attention.

Also, the news has to compete with entertainment so it's entertaining. It's the first "Reality TV." You may get some information that you can use but the goal is to keep your attention by entertaining you.

Most people would be better informed by reading a newspaper once a week and spending the other free time reading a good book. Everyday news is a waste of time.


This post is unfairly downvoted. Downvoting is for content that violates community norms. This post doesn't do that.

If you don't agree, just say why. Don't downvote.


This post is unfairly downvoted. Downvoting is for content that violates community norms. This post doesn't do that.

If you don't agree, just say why. Don't downvote.


https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Please don't comment about the voting on comments. It never does any good, and it makes boring reading.


As an exercise, go read the front page of cnn.com right now. Do you still believe all of it?


I get very frustrated, sad and emotional when I read CNN or any of the major news sites. So I avoid it.

Instead I use Wikipedia once a month : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:August_2020_events


I have taken to using the current events portal, perhaps once a week: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Current_events

The once-per-month approach is an interesting one, which I would imagine removes even more of the lingering "urgency" to keep up with the news treadmill. How long have you been doing it?


I get the impression that cnn.com looks like an entertainment site, not a news site.


This is true for most "news" organizations at the moment. CNN, MSNBC, Fox, etc., are entertainment. Much of what they produce would fall under the Op. Ed. section of a newspaper. And the speed of the news cycle does not allow for rigorous fact checking and adequate opposing viewpoints to be included. "We have reached out for comment" is a common claim when there is a failure to include opposing viewpoints.

The problem is compounded by social feeds (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that are engineered to only show you information you already agree with being the primary method of consumption. And then the comments within the article or accompanied in the social platform further drive home the biases.

Traditional print journalism, while never perfect or completely accurate, at least presented a consistent and uniform experience for all readers. The news cycle was extended to provide more time for fact checking and information/quote gathering. And the structure of the paper was clear: news, opinion, entertainment, etc. These never mixed. And corrections were clear and available in the same place in future issues.

That doesn't mean biases never existed, but the expectations were much clearer and there was less of an ability to focus on a segment of a market and ignore the views of others.


I think this sort of holds true for any modern news org in the west (and possibly world-wide). Look at the profit incentives and it makes sense which way reporting trends will go. The more outrageous/unbelievable the story, the more eyeballs; the more eyeballs, the more ad revenue. Some news orgs definitely take more liberty than others in bending the facts of a story just enough to carve out a demographic niche that they can depend on to keep coming back.


Business models based on advertising revenue are ruining the world.


> Business models based on advertising revenue are ruining the world.

What else do news agencies have to make money?

The could sell stories and news for a subscription. But the news can be had for free in other places.

They can't really sell classifieds anymore since Craigslist, Facebook, and forums have taken those posting monies away.


Personally, I've actually gravitated more towards long-form stories that aren't exactly news as-it-happens and more about events unfolding. Because of that personal preference, I've subscribed to The Atlantic (and considering others). I remember reading a post on here about a month ago that seemed to indicate I wasn't alone in that trend.

I posit that people are willing to pay for quality journalism that talks about a larger problem, but not for as-it-happens news. The latter has become a race to the bottom and first-out-the-door incentives drive it even lower (social media has certainly contributed immensely to this).


News organisations have never lived just out of subscriptions and/or sales - advertising has always been the major part of their revenue, for most publications.


Maybe if they were better, people would pay for them. That’s how the market is supposed to work.


A market also has the option to decide that a type of product is simply not economically viable.

However, certain products, while not being economically viable, can be socially necessary, so alternative models need to be found. News obviously falls in this category, similarly to public transport, healthcare and education. In those cases, other means of supporting the product can be found - usually, direct state intervention.


> certain products, while not being economically viable, can be socially necessary, so alternative models need to be found. News obviously falls in this category, similarly to public transport, healthcare and education

Totally agree. News can be paid for via government support (BBC), direct public support via donations (NPR, PBS), support from foundations (CSPAN), subscriptions (Atlantic, FT, WSJ). Advertising is the worst way — and if news is of great value, we should pay with money rather than attention AND money.


They could be funded unconditionally by the state.

The BBC has, at times, been pretty good.


> What else do news agencies have to make money?

Patronage model, which (often also with subscription tiers on top of free content) is what bigger non-advertising media outlets seem to use; this works better if you qualify as a nonprofit with tax-advantaged donations, so may not be as useful for for-profit firms, but it's certainly a way that news organizations can exist and pay their staff and bills without advertising.


This version of their site has less visual clutter and flashy graphics: http://lite.cnn.com/en

Spoilers, it's still shit. The biggest problem with CNN is the shitty writing. CNN articles seem to be written for an audience of borderline illiterate idiots. Do yourself a favor and read the NYTimes instead. The biases there are basically the same, you're getting the mainstream American centrist take on things, with the difference being the NYTimes hires people who actually know how to write. CNN is dailymail-tier.


no, the nytimes is no better overall. they still have some good longer-form investigative pieces, but that's probably <1% of their volume. the rest is the same slanted, stimulant filler (corona all the time!) as other outlets.


I don't mind the times reporting when they're reporting, I just have to push my way through tons of bait-y opinion headlines to get to it.


As I said, I think they have approximately the same content and biases as CNN. I think they come out better than CNN because they have better writers and editors.

CNN articles seem like they were written by highschoolers and rubber stamped by editors who can't be bothered to read anything.


i guess our differing opinions turn on what "better" means. to me, a better writer, and especially a better editor, would correct those unsubstantiated embellishments and biases. so it's a distinction without a difference to me.


There are many ways in which something might be judged and therefore many ways in which something might be called 'better.' I am not saying the NYTimes is better than CNN in terms of what biases they have, what stories they choose to cover or what embellishments they add. I am not saying they have better fact checking. I am essentially saying CNN's articles are written for a less literate audience and they have lazy editors who let poor writing slide. I am not taking about their fact checking or factual accuracy.


I call BS: The NY Times is in no way a "mainstream American centrist take on things", and they now freely admit their Socialist biases. I will agree the writing there is better than most other sources, but that's a low bar these days.


Agreed. It's hard to consider a newspaper "centrist" that basically forces Bari Weiss out of a job.


American conservatives think the NYTimes are socialists, and American socialists think the NYTimes are conservative. I think this sort of split reputation is characteristic of American media with a centrist bias.


>The NY Times is in no way a "mainstream American centrist take on things", and they now freely admit their Socialist biases.

I don't believe it. Show me a quote from an authority at the NY Times admitting the paper has a "Socialist" bias.


It really is. They copied the FoxNews formula in 2008. Fired anyone who could edit or fact check anything. They then turned the formula up to 11. Most of the 'news' is pick your flavor and enjoy the editorial. Because that is about all you are going to get out of them. News comes way down on the list of what you get out of them.


I just went through it at your suggestion and it all seemed fine to me. So you have a specific example?


How CNN currently works:

    if (makesTrumpLookBad() || makesBidenLookGood())
        pushToFrontPage();
    else if (recentDeadPerson.skinColor != 'white' && recentDeadPerson.causeOfDeath == 'police')
        pushToFrontPage();
    else
        pushToFrontPage(numNewCovidCases(getRandomState()))
Apply DeMorgan's Law to see how Fox News works.


Fox News is certainly much worse than this. They habitually and regularly post actual fake news. Of course, they do have real news mixed in there; otherwise the strategy wouldn't work.


you forgot the =~ s/violence/peaceful protests/

And yes DeMorgan's law here too.


"Fiery but mostly peaceful protests after police shooting" was such an incredible thing to see.


I just went through it and didn't see any problem. After wasting my time you owe me a specific example of what you were trying to point out.


on cnn.com, these are the biggest headlines

> Trump suggests voters should commit fraud

> Bill Barr's indefensible defense of 2020 voter fraud

> Officers covered a Black man's head before he stopped breathing, video shows

> Dr. Fauci says it's conceivable but not likely a vaccine will be ready in October

The only one I think is questionable is the second, but even that one doesn't seem like it contains factual inaccuracies to me


Bear in mind some of those may be opinion pieces and some may be journalism, those need to be considered separately.


The line seems to becoming increasingly blurred these days.


I advocate for something like consumer warning labels on products: you cannot call something Aspirin unless it is truly, chemically Aspirin. Nobody should be able to label their product "News" unless it is strictly Who/What/When/Where; also, opinion and editorial should be required to be labeled clearly as such. Something akin to the Fairness Doctrine (now defunct) might be a place to start.

A thorny issue to discuss, but given the current state of "journalism", I think it's worthwhile.


This is great.

How much healthy information vs how much sugary fructose information!

Going to repeat this to hopefully spread the idea.


Without commenting on the factual nature of the content or the content itself:

The biggest headlines for you aren't the biggest headlines for me. And I get quite a different view on mobile than I do on desktop. On mobile I get blasted by the coronavirus and economy sections, which are mostly gloom-and-doom (the article about a possible vaccine is far far down the list in a different subsection). On desktop those sections are there front and center, but the other stuff is visible too, so it's not quite so in-your-face.

CNN has multiple articles/videos about the exact same topics, but the headline---although any individual headline arguably represent its article technically accurately---are not equivalent to each other.

Consider:

"Dow and Nasdaq plunge after record highs" vs "Stock Market Bloodbath: Down and Nasdaq plunge"

"Trump suggests voters should commit fraud" vs "Trump encourages people to vote twice -- which is illegal" vs "Trump appears to encourage North Carolinians to vote twice to test the system"

So, from my point of view very different pictures can be painted with just:

1. Choice of headline.

2. Choice of presentation/order.

3. Choice of material to cover.

My takeaway is that, no, I can't trust it. A charitable interpretation is that the headlines are technically true, but designed to get me to click on them. That's not truthful. (Other interpretations may also be plausible, but would require more evidence.)

Edit: List formatting


Ugh... Even CNN admits that the following headline is a lie... Let's follow the rabbit trail:

> Trump suggests voters should commit fraud

The source that article links is another one of CNN's own articles:

> Trump appears to encourage North Carolinians to vote twice to test the system

The first paragraph of that article then gets closer to the truth:

> President Donald Trump on Wednesday appeared to encourage people in North Carolina to vote twice -- once by mail and once in person -- during the November general election to purportedly double check that their initial vote was counted, ...

Of course, that's not "double" checking. That's checking. If you mail a ballot and never check, then you haven't checked.

Moreover... "Appeared." If the author believes Trump was saying that, then say Trump said it. However, the author knows that's not true, so the author said he "appeared" / his words could be twisted. Utter cowardice.

Then that links to this source, which gets even closer:

> President Donald Trump suggested Wednesday during his visit to Wilmington that people who vote by absentee ballot should “check their vote” by attempting to vote in person as well.

> https://www.wect.com/2020/09/02/wects-jon-evans-interview-wi...

Then finally 3-4 links deep WECT links to a f-in Twitter post:

https://twitter.com/briantylercohen/status/13012842454495764...

Where Trump clearly explains that people should go to their polling places so that the poll workers can check the voter rolls and confirm whether their ballots have been received. If so, then voters will be turned away. If no, they'll already be at the polling place and will be able to cast a ballot. You, I, WECT, and CNN all know that Trump isn't saying to lie about whether you mailed a ballot. To say otherwise is to lie.


> Moreover... "Appeared." If the author believes Trump was saying that, then say Trump said it. However, the author knows that's not true, so the author said he "appeared" / his words could be twisted. Utter cowardice.

Trump is so confused and unclear sometimes that it's hard to tell exactly what he's trying to say, hence the "appeared.". What he says is newsworthy, and some of the most likely interpretations are shocking, so it can't just be ignored. It wouldn't surprise me if he advised his supporters to do something that clearly amounted to voter fraud without actually understanding that it was fraud.

> Where Trump clearly explains that people should go to their polling places so that the poll workers can check the voter rolls and confirm whether their ballots have been received. If so, then voters will be turned away. If no, they'll already be at the polling place and will be able to cast a ballot. You, I, WECT, and CNN all know that Trump isn't saying to lie about whether you mailed a ballot. To say otherwise is to lie.

I don't know how it is in North Carolina, but where I live they never ask if you've already mailed in a ballot at the polling place. They just ask for your name, look it up in the voter roll, and cross it off, and give you a ballot.

North Carolina accepts absentee ballots postmarked on election day (https://www.ncsbe.gov/voting/vote-mail/five-steps-vote-mail-...), so following Trump's advice could potentially bypass the poll worker check if the poll workers are like those in my state. I believe North Carolina has other checks to prevent double absentee/in-person votes from being counted, but fraud is still fraud if the deception doesn't work.


Where I live if you are registered to vote by mail and you show up at the polling place on election day, you have to vote provisionally, which means that you have to make a sworn statement about why you are weird, and your ballot will be subject to additional verification to make sure you had a right to cast it.


> Trump is so confused and unclear sometimes that it's hard to tell exactly what he's trying to say, hence the "appeared.".

It's irrelevant what he's "trying to say". If he writes "covfefe", the accurate reporting is "he wrote covfefe", not "he appeared to have written covfefe".

Qualifying something with "he appeared to say" is just a way to write anything. Turns out it's not at all what he said? "Well, it appeared that way to me, don't tell me how I have to perceive reality!"


> It's irrelevant what he's "trying to say". If he writes "covfefe", the accurate reporting is "he wrote covfefe", not "he appeared to have written covfefe".

You're asking for a raw transcript, but that's not what the news is. For instance, when the OJ trial was in the news, do you think the papers should have just printed the court reporters transcripts verbatim? The news make judgements about what's important, then summarizes what happened and adds context necessary to understand it, which requires figuring out what he was "trying to say."

> If he writes "covfefe", the accurate reporting is "he wrote covfefe", not "he appeared to have written covfefe".

Actually, if you want to be really nitpicky, "he appeared to have written covfefe" is the most accurate. No one saw him type that word. It could have been some social media aide instead.


The video in the tweet you link to is explicitly as in the headline: Trump tells people to mail in a ballot and then to go vote in person. He repeats it multiple times and is very clear that the "check" is done by them attempting to actually vote, not merely asking to confirm the ballot was received. I had really assumed it would be much more ambiguous than this from the headlines.


Above the fold on my 2016 MacBook running uBlock Origin (so I may be dropping some ads if they have advertorial stuff, not sure), here's what I get:

Trump suggests voters should commit fraud; an uncharitable read, but basically true -- Trump suggested voters in NC vote by mail and in person as part of his contention that vote by mail is easily exploitable by fraudsters. I suspect when this blows up he'll say he was joking, but the words were literally true and nothing about the context of him saying it (let alone the broader context of his attacks on vote by mail and election integrity generally) suggests it's especially a joke. I agree that this is an uncharitable framing.

BREAKING Facebook will limit some ads in the week before the election, but it will let politicians run ads with lies. Clicked on the article and this seems like an accurate summary of events; Facebook will not get into the business of policing lies in political ads generally, but will limit them in the last week of the campaign

Analysis: Donald Trump is already working the debate refs; Analysis implies it's an opinion piece. My biggest objection here is the style of putting asterisks around the word already instead of using <em> tags. It looks like the biggest objection to the headline is that it's the Trump campaign who are working the refs, not Trump himself. I think that kind of "royal we" thing is pretty common, though.

Analysis: Bill Barr's indefensible defense of 2020 voter fraud. This title is all sorts of mangled, the actual thesis is that Barr is alleging systematic mail vote fraud including by foreign actors with no evidence to support it. That seems in keeping with past statements he's made.

Barr interview gets tense when pressed on mail-in voting; this appears to just be a link to the video discussed in the piece immediately above.

AG William Barr: "I don't think there are two justice systems"; this is Barr discussing racial inequality in justice. The headline is a direct quote and surely Barr knew to the extent that this is an inflammatory argument, he was making it.

Opinion: What Barr could have up his sleeve for Trump; dumb title, the op-ed piece's thesis is that the Justice Department customarily avoids announcing any major activity within 60 days of the election to avoid the appearance of impropriety, and that Barr might not respect this precedent. I don't see strong evidence here and as an editor I think I'd have pressed the writer to revise the argument a bit, but it doesn't seem false per se?

Police officer poisoned by Novichok in UK issues cryptic tweet on Navalny; the tweet is clearly deliberately cryptic, and the headline seems true. I would argue this is a bit of a nothingburger as a story.

Pelosi says she was set up by salon owner; Pelosi's defence here seems quite thin. She responds very poorly to criticism and this specific story I think is the kind of personal gotcha that tends to get a bunch of traction. But she did literally say this, so...

Officers covered a Black man's head before he stopped breathing, video shows; there's clearly an implied frame here that the officers action was police abuse, so you could maybe argue that a fairer frame would contextualize the actions better, but again seems literally true

Laid off and now evicted amid Covid-19, a Houston father contemplates homelessness; story seems true, although you can argue whether this is adequately framed in terms of how common or uncommon it is

The US jobs market is gradually recovering from the pandemic lockdown; this seems basically true. We're still down a bunch from highs, but recovery is happening. The headline attributes the job losses to the lockdown in a way that is causally clearer than I think the evidence suggests, but it exists in the realm of truth certainly.

CNN political director: This is a problem for Trump; truly awful headline, and it links to a video whose thesis is basically that Trump is behind in polling in "swing states" and in "key demographics". This is factually true [I have not worked for CNN but have polled this election for the last 15 months for a day job]. You could argue some of the conclusions require an exploration of the limits of polling, or the uses of "basically tied" -- and the reported MOEs are classical sample MOEs, not TSEs -- but this is consistent with what most pollsters would tell you.

These children are being held in hotels, then kicked out of the US; again, terrible headline, but it seems to be true and is a story about migrant ("illegal immigrant" if you prefer) children detention.

MacKenzie Scott has become the world's richest woman; I think it's difficult to assess the wealth of autocrats or whatever, but given the restriction that wealth lists relate to public, documented wealth this seems likely, especially given Bezos' wealth growth over the last few years.

Overall, I would say that this is certainly a news source whose editorial voice is focusing on stories closer to the interest of Democratic voters, but covering generally true things without a particularly strong editorial slant. I don't habitually read CNN or watch any TV news an I'm not about to start because a lot of these pieces are pretty shallow and I didn't learn anything. But if the question is "Do you still believe all of it?", subject to the general limitations I would apply to skepticism of any source, I think the stories presented are broadly true.

Since I took time out of my day to do your exercise, do you think you could flesh out your own position a little bit more about what exactly it is you think I missed? In asking me to do this, surely you did it yourself, and I have to believe you wouldn't have posted if you didn't have specific objections.


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