News You Use Vs. News You Lose

Society today is blessed with the ability to get news updates from the widest variety of sources in human history. Not too long ago, most news traveled by word of mouth (along with any unfortunate distortions that cropped up along the way). Today, we can receive breaking news updates from anywhere in the world in nearly real time through such media as TV, radio, RSS feeds and the Internet. The reporting of news has become so abundant, in fact, that we can pre-select both the types of stories we see and the type of spin that we’d like to see put on them.

Whether you love or hate the political party in power, a news consumer today has an option for how they want their news spun – events could be reported on one channel as a potentially career-ending scandal for a major figure in society, only to go completely unmentioned by the next news station up the dial.

We’ve all heard enough about the partisanship that has developed in news reporting over the past 15 – 20 years and I’m not looking to rehash that argument here. Nor do I have any interest in debating the merits of Fox vs. CNN vs. MSNBC. My issue today is something else entirely: The fact that what at certain points in our history would have been earth shaking news can now go nearly unreported.

Over the past week, the headlines have been filled with what are shaping up to be news headlines of historical significance: The Gulf of Mexico oil spill…the US Senate/Goldman Sachs hearings…and then two more that seem to have flown below our collective radar:

NASA: Evidence of Life on Mars

Noah’s Ark Found in Turkey

Okay…So reading the actual articles suggests that both stories might involve a little more…nuance than the headlines would suggest. No, we didn’t discover little green Martians, but rather a presence of pond scum, which I’m told is the building blocks of life. But this to me is still pretty cool, to know that there are other life forms outside of planet Earth. And I’m sure there is a great deal more research that needs to be done to determine if this ark is indeed 4,800 years old. Regardless, both stories raise a question or two in my mind:

Are we missing some of the big stories out there, particularly if we choose to have our news tailored to better fit with our existing world view?

Clearly, we need a good filter in light of all the information that’s out there, but shouldn’t we take that filter down once in a while? If for no other reason then to maintain a healthy sense of cynicism, and perhaps so that we don’t lose our ability to be surprised?

To reach Donna:

Phone:  212.584.5479
Twitter: @donnamcsorley