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We're in an age of information overload, and too much of what we watch, hear and read is mistaken, deceitful or even dangerous. Yet you and I can take control and make media serve us -- all of us -- by being active consumers and participants. Here's how. With a Foreword by Clay Shirky.
scoops are a coin of the realm. The second imperative is attracting an audience. Being first draws a crowd, and crowds can be turned into influence, money, or both. Witness cable news channels’ desperate hunt for “the latest” when big events are under way, even though the latest is so often the rankest garbage. The urge to be first applies not just to those disseminating the raw information (which, remember, is often wrong) that’s the basis for breaking news. It’s also the case, for example,
to the day it was first created. Moreover, Wikipedia articles of any depth are accompanied by “meta” conversations about the articles themselves, where the editors discuss or argue among themselves about the quality of the information going into the articles and often about the credentials of the editors who have been making the latest changes. Yes, use Wikipedia—and lots of other sources. Just make sure you understand both its advantages and its limitations. And if you see something that’s
magazine to its readers and the world was quick: It issued a retraction. I subscribe to the CR online site. I got an email, and a friend who gets the paper version got the same letter via postal mail, from Jim Guest, president of Consumers Union, the title’s parent. He apologized, sincerely. He explained what he knew so far about the error, apparently caused by an outside lab’s tests. He announced a further investigation. And he promised extraordinary efforts not to let it occur again. In March
of a platform change combined with the company’s misguided understanding of what the Web was about; removing history struck me as perverse and still does. The second time was after I left Knight Ridder in 2005; the reason given was that it would be too costly to keep running the server—something that again struck me as bizarre. But they had the right to delete it, even if I though they were doing a dramatically wrong thing. In 2009, we got a lot of it back, and we have restored most of the old
anachronistic system that had admitted only print entries. We should celebrate that progress. But the new rules didn’t begin to address the more fundamental issues about how journalism is changing—and they raised the question of whether journalism prizes should exist in the first place. Let’s answer the second question first. In general, journalism prizes should not exist. No other profession (or craft) gives itself as many awards as journalism. Anyone with a byline or identifiable broadcasting