Posted by: Bill | March 2, 2009

This has crossed my mind in the past…

…but I have recently learned they have a name for it. Yes, this is a continuation of my ongoing obsession with journalism as an industry. Feel free to ignore the education part of that post (although it is good) and concentrate on the excerpt from a Michael Crichton speech from 2002. For those of you out there that don’t like clicking on links, here is the meat of the theory:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works 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 with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

After reading this, one may ask “Why bother at all?” I agree this is tempting and given that one of the alternatives (making sure to review many many sources on a given issue) is literally exhausting and dangerous (job loss, marriage problems, ignoring your kids, sleep deprivation), I don’t have a good answer.

My best advice is to spend some time trying to find a few columnists, bloggers, editorial boards, etc. that you trust. This could still be dangerous and “trust, but verify” would still be in play, but this way you don’t spend as much time gathering information. In the meantime, I will continue to bring you utterly unbiased (except when the Steelers are involved) coverage of many issues.

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