Friday, March 20, 2009

Clueless in the bubble

Turns out I’m not the only one concerned about the group polarization that Cass Sunstein sees as inherent in online life. Nicholas Kristof cites Sunstein in his Thursday column.

The only difference is that he is still worried about us barbarians who do not subscribe to newspapers:

The decline of traditional news media will accelerate the rise of The Daily Me, and we’ll be irritated less by what we read and find our wisdom confirmed more often. The danger is that this self-selected “news” acts as a narcotic, lulling us into a self-confident stupor through which we will perceive in blacks and whites a world that typically unfolds in grays.
Wonder what he thinks of journalists from the “traditional news media” kibitzing with leftwing bloggers and policy wonks on a secret listserv? He does not say. Guess that concern never entered his mind.

Underneath all the hand wringing, Kristof strikes me as a disciple of “castor oil journalism”. He is happy to deliver the medicine and is delighted to work for the biggest nurse in the ward. He worries about group think but what really scares him is that the plebes no longer let Pinch and Punch and Keller do their thinking for them.

In the end, Kristof is just making excuses for the catastrophic collapse of the MSM. He sees people deserting newspapers so he blames the customers for fleeing the purveyors of “hard truths” in favor of the “narcotic” of “self-selected news.” He will not, on any account, look at his own profession and its performance.

Maybe I’m wrong. Perhaps Kristof will revisit this issue. He can discuss JournoList and this study. Maybe he can tell us what it means when 70% of surveyed voters believe that the MSM favored Obama in the 2008 election. That is a hard truth and is well worth discussing.

But that is a tough issue for the hallowed NYT. Delicate subject. Handle it wrong and you might encourage the barbarians. Wouldn’t want to give them another reason to stop buying the product. Hard truths don’t come cheap and op-ed columnists have a life style to support.

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