News, Part I

I guess we won’t have my cuz to kick around for a while, eh.

A plurality of Canadians have given Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party the boot after nine years and elected Justin Trudeau to head a new Liberal government in Canadian federal elections held two weeks ago. Mr. Trudeau takes office November 4.

I didn’t learn that on Facebook. It was probably tweeted but even the curated Twitter feed is too congested to pick out that tidbit.

In fact, I don’t get my news from Twitter or Facebook. Here’s why.

Here’s what is trending this morning on Facebook:

• Clear Food: Report Finds Some Vegetarian Hot Dogs Contain Meat, Traces of Human DNA
• Maureen O’Hara: Actress Known for Role in ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ Film Dies at Age 95
• Vancouver Island: Whale Watching Boat Sinks With 27 on Board, Killing at Least 5
• Jimmy Morales: Former TV Comedian Elected President of Guatemala in Landslide Victory
• Chris Christie: Governor of New Jersey Kicked Off Amtrak Quiet Car for Talking on Phone
• Comet Lovejoy: Researcher Says Comet Is Producing Alcohol and Sugar
• Germaine Greer: Feminist Writer Says Transgender Women Are Not Women During ‘Newsnight’ Interview
• Florida Bear Hunt: Federal Agency Ends Hunt in Central Florida After 207 Bears Get Killed

Truth? I don’t care if Amtrak kicked Chris Christie off the quiet car any more than I care that American Airlines kicked Alec Baldwin off a plane for playing games on his own cellphone. It was boorish behavior but it wasn’t news.

“I am more inclined to follow it on the internet. TV news is too slanted. Reporters deliver the news with political slants to the left or right and they dilute the actual facts of the event,” wrote a Yahoo forum correspondent.

I’ve watched plenty of people click every link in the “Trending” column of their Facebook feed. That, of course, pleases Mr. Zuckerberg. But they made the same fundamental error as our Yahoo correspondent.

That Yahoo correspondent thinks that Internet news is less skewed and is more fact-checked than other sources. We “drink from the firehose” of “information overload” in the best of times. Probably better that our firehose be pumping something of substance.

This is news, as reported this morning in the NYTimes:

• Health Care Co-op Closings Narrow Consumers’ Choices
• Criminal Charges and $50 Million Fine Expected in Goldman-New York Fed Case
• Afghanistan and Pakistan Hit by Huge Earthquake
• Right-Wing Party Roars Back in Polish Elections
• Broadband: New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman Launching Probe Into Internet Speeds
• General Motors and the United Automobile Workers union [that owns 8.7% of GM stock, down from 17.5% in the 2009 car theft] reached a tentative agreement
• The Obama administration called for a testing cap so that no child spends more than 2 percent of classroom instruction time taking exams.

Every one of those stories has an impact on your life and mine.

The truth is that most news isn’t all that important when counted against your day-to-day life or mine. Facebook might argue that the “ambient engagement” and “community awareness” their Trending line offers provides the context we need to get through the day.


So, knowing that Germaine Greer thinks transgender women should use the men’s room helps me put food on the table?

I’m all for absorbing data by osmosis but the way we actually answer the questions of whether we can afford a new car this year or if it is safe to walk the street after dark rarely comes from the fake reports; it comes from the hard news of consumer prices, the Cleveland Clinic’s new mobile stroke unit, and what laws (if any) Congress passed last week.

News is more accessible than ever, but it’s up to us to find it. There’s more information in one daily NYTimes or Wall Street Journal than I can digest and the Internoodle just compounds the problem. The Interwebs deliver little but what you want to hear, not what you need to know.

Next week, we’ll look at the quality of the news instead of the quantity and the headlines.

As a side note, anyone who thinks hot dogs don’t contain stuff you don’t want to know about including traces of human and rat DNA, also believes their favorite politician told them the truth today.