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On Media and Intellectual Darwinism in the Blogosphere

Last week Aaron Sorkin wrote for The Atlantic a piece in which he details his daily news feed, in What I Read. He’s not into blogs:

When I read the Times or The Wall Street Journal, I know those reporters had to have cleared a very high bar to get the jobs they have. When I read a blog piece from “BobsThoughts.com,” Bob could be the most qualified guy in the world but I have no way of knowing that because all he had to do to get his job was set up a website–something my 10-year-old daughter has been doing for 3 years. When The Times or The Journal get it wrong they have a lot of people to answer to. When Bob gets it wrong there are no immediate consequences for Bob except his wrong information is in the water supply now so there are consequences for us.

PZ Meyers, whose tagline for Pharyngula at ScienceBlogs is a bit crass for my taste, but with whom I often agree, writes On What’s Wrong With the Media:

This is the problem, that people blithely assume that because it is in the NY Times or the WSJ that it must be right — I’d rather read BobsThoughts.com because there, at least, poor lonely Bob must rely on the quality of his arguments rather than the prestige of his name and affiliation to persuade.

I’ll also add that when Bob throws the wrong information into the “water supply”, he’s only contaminating his own well; when Brooks or Friedman do it, they’re soaking the whole nation. And if Sorkin thinks that having a position on a big name newspaper means you’re exempt from the problem of bad information, then he’s dumber than his writing makes him sound. It was the Times and the Journal that pounded the drums of war…

Meyers is right; the big platforms don’t always get the story straight. That much is clear.

There is value in blogging: Open coverage of news in all fields — including science and medical reports published in top-tier journals — by writers who may think “out of the box” promotes careful analysis from more varied perspectives, critical discussion of developments and, ultimately, progress.

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*


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