Sunday, August 05, 2012

Learn to read Wikipedia! Part 2

In my last post, I pointed out how you should check your facts by reading Wikipedia. In that case, it was about the Colorado Batman shooting, which was already a couple weeks old. The same applies to the Wisconsin Sikh temple shooting, which is only hours old. I googled "wikipedia 2012 shooting sikh" and came up with The content is brief, because very little is known as this point. We don't know who the gunman was or why he did it. Presumably, in the next day, we'll discover the identity of the gunman, which will presumably lead to hints as to his motivation.

What's interesting about the Wikipedia article is that it just contains the facts. Contrast to this to the nonsense on "real news" outlets like CNN, which first confused Sikhs with Muslims/Hindus, then apologized for the mistake and mentioned how unfair it was that Sikhs are murdered on the mistaken belief that they are Muslims, and then apologized again for implying that Muslims deserve to be shot. (I don't know this first hand -- but this is what my Twitter feed is reporting about CNN's reporting). The known facts are few, but that doesn't stop CNN from doing it's best to fill out the "reporting" anyway.

TV news like CNN has been under fire recently from the likes of Jon Stewart ("The Daily Show") and Aaron Sorkin ("The Newsroom"), though neither present reasonable alternatives (well, Sorkin does present an alternative, just one that discards the most important ethics of journalistic impartiality).

I'm not sure criticism like this is warranted. People tune into CNN either for the breaking news or entertainment. Once CNN breaks the news with so little facts, they've really got nothing better to do than sit their twiddling their thumbs.

I think the mistake is to believe that CNN should even be considered "real news". Wikipedia is an excellent source, so are written sources like The Economist. They have problems, but their worst is still better than the best of TV news. Rather than trying to reform TV news, I think we just start ignoring it -- except as a source of entertainment.


Anonymous said...

Hear, hear! Cable news is the worst.

Anonymous said...

I agree we should ignore cable news. I think that's what John Stewart is saying when he makes fun of the 24hr cable news networks. They seem to be competing to break news faster than the other network, and it inevitably leads to some really stupid mistakes. Also, the way networks shill for political parties (Fox for the Republicans, MSNBC for the Dems) is absolutely shameful and just adds to the uselessness of 24hr TV news. The Internet age has made us ADD - huge quantities of information, low quality of information. Everybody'd be better informed if we went back to reading a newspaper once a day. Ok...done ranting...

Dan Farrell said...

I agree. It would be one thing if CNN took the perspective of "raw news feed" with disclaimers known warnings for the age and verification of the information they're passing, but instead they purport it as fact, and they stumble over themselves correcting it later. But most viewers/readers have already moved on, left only with an impression based on innaccurate information. As far as journalistic integrity is concerned, its deplorable.