Gary Rosensteel: Goodbye, Middle America! The shift to Web news allows us to ignore differing views

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Newspaper circulation and magazine subscriptions have been declining for years. Why would I want to read a printed paper or magazine when I can instantly get access to whatever news they provide from thousands of sources on the Web? In fact, on the Web I can tailor my own presentation to see only the news of interest to me.

Ah, there's the rub! Our under-30 population is self-limiting the information they see to only those things they currently are interested in, be it sports, celebrity news, music or videos. I understand why this is empowering, but at the same time it is enfeebling.

They are eliminating the possibility of ah-ha! moments, when you stumble across some story on page 5 of the paper, or in one of the small sections of a magazine. When you find something you would never search for, because it's way outside your sphere of interest, or you didn't know it existed -- until you saw a compelling headline and just had to read what followed.

Read the whole piece.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchBlogging & the InternetMedia

8 Comments
Posted January 12, 2010 at 6:01 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. Karen B. wrote:

Kendall, your blog is a great counterweight to this tendency of narrow self-selected news.  I love the cross-section of articles you post, many of which I would never see otherwise.  I’ve very much grown to appreciate your broad focus on politics, the economy and the culture-watch stuff too, not just Anglican / Episcopal stuff.  Thanks for all you share with us from your reading!

January 12, 10:20 am | [comment link]
2. Andrew717 wrote:

Karen said just what popped into my head as I read this.  Thank you, Kendall.

January 12, 10:40 am | [comment link]
3. Dale Rye wrote:

This describes one of the factors that is driving our problems in North American Anglicanism. With the decline in religion coverage by the daily press, and the restricted circulation of most of the remaining religious publications catering to a general audience, most of us are getting our “news” (sneer quotes intentional) from online sources that are tailored by people with very specific views for an audience that is already sympathetic to those views. The media controlled by the denominations, dioceses, parishes, etc. are part of this problem—-they have ceased to be objective news outlets, as distinct from defenders of official positions (when they are not so boring as to be unreadable). So, for example, most people do not read anything that Abp. Rowan Williams actually writes or says, but rather get their picture of him from either an online source that regards him as a fuzzy liberal or one that regards him as an authoritarian conservative. Those who hold one view or the other rarely read anything that might challenge their assumptions. Similarly, the Anglican Covenant is either an American imperialist plot to wrench control of the Communion from the Global South or a Global South plot to wrench control of TEC from its membership. Logically, it cannot be both, but there are relatively few voices arguing the middle ground, and they are under attack from both sides. Most people seem to be saying “Don’t confuse me with facts; my mind is made up.” Because most of us are restricting our reading to media that agree with us, hardly any fact that might challenge a preexisting belief will ever come to our attention.

January 12, 12:40 pm | [comment link]
4. Sherri2 wrote:

Dale, to an extent I agree with you re: religion news. I differ only in that I think people skip around to more websites than you might think. But what a reasserter, for example, will find on a revisionist blog is aimed at revisionists and vice versa (excepting on Dr. Harmon’s blog!) - so there is no news that seeks to report, as this article suggests, from the middle ground, that seeks to understand an issue from multiple perspectives, etc. On the larger scale, I think this encourages us toward polarities and we are losing any sense of common ground - because we aren’t fighting to keep it and there is no objective reporting available. How I miss big daily newspapers.

January 12, 12:55 pm | [comment link]
5. Sidney wrote:

The printed papers and magazines are losing their readership partly *because* they have refused to print both sides of the story for a long time.

January 12, 3:16 pm | [comment link]
6. John Wilkins wrote:

this is true.  Cass Sunstein noted this in his book Republic.  The evidence seems to indicate that people read blogs they already agree with.

January 13, 3:06 am | [comment link]
7. Charles wrote:

#6 - interesting.  I tend to read blogs that support both sides of things, but with regards to of Anglican blogs, I read more T19 and SFiF than Thinking Anglicans even though I have more in common with TA .  Why? Because it’s much more interesting to read and discuss things with people who have a different viewpoint than I do.  Hanging out with people who are just like you gets extremely boring.

January 13, 12:08 pm | [comment link]
8. rob k wrote:

Sherri - I don’t think most people try to read news sources on the internet with differing sources.  So many times I hear people say something like “I don’t have enough time, but with the internet I can read about the news that I’m interested in or that I want to hear.”

January 13, 7:45 pm | [comment link]
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