Wednesday, March 29, 2006

You are not your best news filter

As much as the mainstream media is vain enough to think they know you well, it is equally vain to think you should be in total control of your news. If you are not at least presented with a daily variety of news items, you miss out on a lot of stuff you don't always think is important before it happens.

For example, many people think all politics happen in Washington. This is so untrue. Some of the best political reporting happens at city council, town council, and county commissioner meetings. This is the stuff that affects you most, is most likely to directly shrink your bank account, and is the stuff the average person ignores.

Go ahead and set up your filters to all of your nuanced preferences. Then try and find a good reason to complain when the city council raises property taxes or county commissioners pass a new stadium tax.

If you're obsessed with the next presidential election, but block out neighborhood news, you'll never know when the bar and grill down the street has altered their business plan and is close to becoming your neighborhood strip club or head shop.

Did you know a mosque with a 100-foot spire was being built on a vacant lot 300 feet from your patio door? Why has the city shut down the playground at the city park? What the heck have they been digging up the past two years at X and Y streets?

There's all kinds of local stories that are missed out when you filter your news based on predetermined priorities. That's why newsrooms weigh 40 or more stories a day for the front page. It's not an elegant or perfect process, but it does take into account a lot of things the ordinary media consumer rarely thinks about -- even though they should.

Do the important stories that impact you most always make it to the front page? No. That's a debate about out-of-touch journalists for another day. Nonetheless, there is a role for people, not computers, filtering the news for us. Everything else is supplement and personal preference.

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