In our podcast last week, Marc Eisen and I discussed what would happen to political discourse when newspapers eventually fade away – specifically, how people will talk to one another about politics when all the news they read is news that they have hand-selected to suit their ideology.
This phenomenon has been dubbed “The Daily Me” by M.I.T.’s Nicholas Negroponte, via New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof:
When we go online, each of us is our own editor, our own gatekeeper. We select the kind of news and opinions that we care most about.
Nicholas Negroponte of M.I.T. has called this emerging news product The Daily Me. And if that’s the trend, God save us from ourselves.
That’s because there’s pretty good evidence that we generally don’t truly want good information – but rather information that confirms our prejudices. We may believe intellectually in the clash of opinions, but in practice we like to embed ourselves in the reassuring womb of an echo chamber.
One classic study sent mailings to Republicans and Democrats, offering them various kinds of political research, ostensibly from a neutral source. Both groups were most eager to receive intelligent arguments that strongly corroborated their pre-existing views.
(It is somewhat ironic that I am linking to a free online editorial that demonstrates exactly why newspapers are going under, and creating this self-selection process that I then decry. )
The irony is also not lost on me that someone that works for WPRI, a think tank with a conservative point of view, is complaining about people being able to get conservative information. But we are in the persuasion business, and the newspapers are in a different business altogether – at some point, someone has to be the arbiter of what’s newsworthy, whether it fits our ideology or not. We can all certainly work together – WPRI and and active media don’t have to be mutually exclusive.