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A World-Wide Quiz To Make You Feel Uninformed

May 11, 2009

From the Economist, a quiz about recent world events is here. As someone who reads (most of) a handful of newspapers and scans a dozen other news and information web sites during a day, I was surprised to find myself woefully uninformed about the goings-on covered by this quiz. And that got me to thinking about some things: what amount of information that is available to be read in a given day is the product of independent reporting? That is, how much “news” is being produced by a reporter writing about information gathered from primary sources? And how much is pooled information or commentary about previously published or available stories? In the vast sea of information available in various forms, how much is original and factual and how much is repackaged and opinion-related? This blog, for example, while hopefully useful and informative, is generally–like almost all blogs–a compilation of previously published material with my added two cents. And much of the material about which I comment is already an opinion piece written about factual reporting done by a reporter for a daily newspaper or a conglomerate. This may be the form news collecting and publishing will take in the future–especially with newspapers struggling to survive–but are we constructing an environment overripe with voices, all equally assessable and none authoritative? Can the marketplace of ideas be too full of offerings? I don’t know if the answer to the last two questions is “yes”. I sincerely doubt it. But the adjustment to a new system of information gathering and dissemination is one where facts may be available in numbers and variety never seen before but the means to discern the truth will be ever more difficult to utilize.

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