alixtii: The groupies from Dr. Horrible. (meta)
[personal profile] alixtii
I had a discussion a few days ago about how often Internet users used the 'net for news. Statistics were put out; what percentage of people went to news websites at least twice a week, or something of the sort. As someone who does not currently read the newspaper or watch the TV news, I thought about my own news consumption. I don't regularly visit, say, the NYT website (except immediately following a primary election), nor do I read the political blogs I used to in undergrad. And I don't exactly think about LJ as a news site, exactly. (I actually filter out all the syndicated feeds I have friended.)

But as I pointed out (not to the original pessimist, but to sympathetic listeners afterward), if Gloria Steinem were to--perish the thought--have a heart attack, I would be the first in my family to know. Also if the SCC were picked up for another season. I was the first in the family to knew that Dan Fogelberg was dead and Ani DiFranco was pregnant. (My family appreciated these bits of news, fwiw.) Also the news that another feminist had died--I don't remember who it was; it wasn't Andrea Dworkin because I had been London then.

Well, okay. But there's a selection bias going on. How useful is my internet consumption for finding out things going in the world which aren't connected to feminist icons or sci-fi television or rock music? (Of course, the fact that there is a selection bias isn't inherently a bad thing; there's a selection bias inherent in, say, reading the NYT rather than watching Fox News.)

My mother called me this afternoon to check up on my brother (who is home on spring break and was still asleep) and tell me about an Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal, as then-Attorney General Spitzer had been my commencement speaker (and pretty bad at it, too). Since I had discussed the internet/news issue with her as well, she asked me if I already knew it. I told her I hadn't checked the flist since early Monday morning, but it wasn't necessarily the type of thing my flisters would necessarily feel needed blogging about.

So it may be all over my flist, it may not be; I don't really know, but it doesn't really matter. I may not have found out of it before my mother told me, but if she waited to tell me in person (for example, if my brother answered the phone--although my brother never answers the phone) I would have: this post from [ profile] languagelog just arrived in my inbox.

My conclusion? General internet surfing does result in a well-informed citizen, even if she doesn't visit soi-disant "news" sites. Instead, in proper Web 2.0 fashion, there is merely a democratization of who controls who knows what.

ETA: I'm reading through my flist now and, yeah, there's a reasonable numbers to the Spitzer scandal scattered through it, with commentary in lots of places. So I think the results of this experiment are actually pretty darn conclusive.

(no subject)

Date: 2008-03-11 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ah, I was going to get around to mentioning the whole Eliot Spitzer thing, I swear. With similar reminiscences about how he was our commencement speaker and it sucked, as much of it as I remember. I'm pretty sure I was busy putting on my poncho at the time and not paying attention.

But yes, I'd say that general internet surfing keeps me better-informed than simply reading the news, actually. I check to keep up on things at home, but when non-Canadian news-related things come up, I can generally at least respond to them with a "well yes, I did read about that somewhere on the internet, tell me more?"

(Edited to make it make sense)

(no subject)

Date: 2008-03-12 07:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I find that when something like a disaster has happened I will generally see it on my flist before I hear the news or read the paper. Political news is very unlikely to be reported by my flist except for when a politician does something truly crass and then it will probably be a day or two after the event, and the general run of the mill day to day stuff isn't mentioned at all. For most things I rely on the newspaper. If I want more depth to a story I will use the BBC website because they provide excellent links and overviews.

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