With the Supreme Court ruling this morning on the Affordable Care Act, it’s important to remember Dan Gillmor’s call for a slow news movement:
Like many other people who’ve been burned by believing too quickly, I’ve learned to put almost all of what journalists call “breaking news” into the categories of gossip or, in the words of a scientist friend, “interesting if true.” That is, even though I gobble up “the latest” from a variety of sources, the closer the information is in time to the actual event, the more I assume it’s unreliable if not false…
…Rapid-fire news is about speed, which has two main purposes for the provider. The first is human competitiveness, the desire to be first. In journalism newsrooms, scoops are a coin of the realm.
The second imperative is audience. Being first draws a crowd. Crowds can be turned into influence, money or both. Witness cable news channels’ desperate hunt for “the latest” when big events are under way, even though the latest is so often the rankest garbage.
This applies not just to raw information (often wrong, remember) that’s the basis for breaking news. It’s also the case, for example, for the blogger who offers up the first sensible-sounding commentary that puts the “news” into perspective. The winners in the online commentary derby — which is just as competitive, though for lower financial stakes, as — are the quick and deft writers who tell us what it means. That they’re often basing these perspectives on lies or well-meaning falsehoods seems to matter less than being early to comment.
I’m not arguing here against human nature. We all want to know what’s going on, and the bigger the calamity the more we want to know. Nothing is going to change that, and nothing should…
…It comes down to this: The faster the news accelerates, the slower I’m inclined to believe anything I hear — and the harder I look for the coverage that pulls together the most facts with the most clarity about what’s known and what’s speculation.
Call it slow news. Call it critical thinking. Call it anything you want. Give some thought to adopting it for at least some of your media consumption, and creation.