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- New York Review of Books & The Atlantic
- Moisha Gessen
- Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
- Tom Nickels Death of Expertise
- Neiman Center @ Harvard / Neiman Lab
Mission: Recognizing that local communities are the lifeblood of society, we aim to deliver high-quality journalism to underserved communities in order to foster civic engagement, enrich people’s lives and contribute to a healthy democracy.
https://www.berkeleyside.com/ – Original local journalism site.
https://oaklandside.org/ – His latest (2020) local journalism site launch.
Interview with Lance Knobel Podcast Notes
In a world of Twitter mobs, Parler and Q-Anon how jarring is it to talk about a mindful relationship to media? It’s tempting to consider tuning out all together.
The problem is becoming a media-hermit isn’t an option. Acting in a meaningful, ethical and excellence-oriented way isn’t something we can do so in a vacuum. We can’t get around our need for information.
The question then becomes: how can we interact with media and information in a way that supports our goals, while at the same time not falling prey to rabbits holes, conspiracy theories and cancel-culture.
This is the conundrum my co-host Jonathan DeYoe and I brought to our interview with Lance Knobel, CEO at Cityside, a local journalism organism based in the Bay Area, on Episode 5 of the Mindful Wealth Podcast.
Here are some of Lance’s pearls.
R.I.P. THE NEWSPAPER
Knobel first unpacks the premature funeral we’ve been holding for newspapers. What does it really mean when people say print journalism is dead? The paperboy is out of a job, but publications like The Economist or The New York Times are having success selling subscriptions online. Print journalism survives then, but on the internet.
A WORD OF CAUTION
Facebook or Google or Twitter may be rife with acts of information dissemination, but this doesn’t imply meaningful overlap with capital-J “Journalism”. Our world knows no lack of free information, but we have an issue with quality-control.
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
According to Knobel, it’s time to apply this wisdom to our information diet. Fact-checking, quality reporting, informed analysis, journalistic ethics – these things come at a price. If, as a society, we stop paying our journalists because somebody is holding a smart phone and has a YouTube account, we might find we have a serious problem of reliable information.
THE MARTIANS AREN’T COMING
Knobel makes another. Pre-internet, we had beacons for assessing the quality of information. Magazines next to the cash register at the supermarket with aliens or Elvis on the front cover: probably not the best news. The paper with lots of writing and few colour images splashed on the cover: reliable.
The beacons that mark these distinctions aren’t a priori. Media seem to acquire them over time. With the rise of the “Penny Press” in the mid-1800s for example, there was a period where scandal, lies and sensationalism could circulate freely. Over time the newspaper industry sorted itself out, to a point where it was relatively easy for citizens to tell the difference between fact and fabrication.
When H.G. Well’s novel War of the Worlds was read live on ratio in 1938, panic ensued because listeners thought the Martians were actually invading. How different is this from scouring pizzerias for child-molesters?
It seems that when new media gain traction, there follows a period in which audiences suffer a truth-dilemma.
Perhaps that’s where we are with the internet right now.
Then we have the echo-chamber. With or without the help of Big Data, we suffer from epistemic closure. As the internet segments us according to our interests and as we segment ourselves by selecting what we consume, the serendipity that once placed our eyes on information or opinions that might contradict ours has come to a close.
The result: a more polarized world in which tribes retreat into their respective Echo chambers, consuming only information that supports their existing views. We become increasingly isolated from one other as we begin to doubt the facts the other side is looking at.
EATING A BALANCED DIET
What are some things we can do to be more mindful in our consumption of information?
1. Pay for journalism.
Not only does this support the value of professional journalism for society as a whole (altruistically), but it will (selfishly) give you access to quality data that has been fact-checked and on which you can base your decisions and actions.
2. Make sure you eat your greens (or read opposing views)
Jordan Peterson makes a lot of this. According him, humanity has survived because (not in spite) of different ideological bents. Perhaps we collectively need those on the left who worry for the left-behinds, just as we need those on the right who protect tradition and argue for a winner-takes-all approach to markets. One view protects, the other propels progress. No matter which side you sit on, the other side has (at least in theory) value. Instead of seeking the straw man version of the opposing view, perhaps we are better served by try to consuming the best thinkers, writers, or influencers whose we don’t share. Who knows – they might even be sort of right and our collective survival might depend on it.
3. Think before you act
Avoid propagating falsehoods or sensationalist or politically motivated material unconsciously. Be aware that social media platforms are optimized to keep you watching and, as a result, serve you content to keep your attention, not because it is true. Realize that there are political actors who have learned to manipulate social media and search engines for their own ends, be it sowing mayhem, influencing foreign elections, or advancing their particular political agenda. At a minimum, read the full article or watch the full video before you share. Even better, triangulate with a few reliable sources first (eg. Academic publications, reliable news outlets or known journalists).
Want to delve deeper?
Check out the full Podcast below or watch the video here.