Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload

Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload, by Bill Kovach & Tom Rosenstiel ($15.97)

Amazon:  Veteran journalists Kovach and Rosenstiel (The Elements of Journalism) begin their intelligent and well-written guidebook by assuring readers this is not unfamiliar territory. The printing press, the telegraph, radio, and television were once just as unsettling and disruptive as today’s Internet, blogs, and Twitter posts. But the rules have changed. The gatekeepers of information are disappearing. Everyone must become editors assuming the responsibility for testing evidence and checking sources presented in news stories, deciding what’s important to know, and whether the material is reliable and complete. Utilizing a set of systemic questions that the authors label “the way of skeptical knowing,” Kovach and Rosenstiel provide a roadmap for maintaining a steady course through our messy media landscape. As the authors entertainingly define and deconstruct the journalism of verification, assertion, affirmation, and interest group news, readers gain the analytical skills necessary for understanding this new terrain. “The real information gap in the 21st century is not who has access to the Internet and who does not. It is the gap between people who have the skills to create knowledge and those who are simply in a process of affirming preconceptions without growing and learning.”

 

What if the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island occurred today, in the age of the Internet, talk radio, and hyperpartisan “news” programs? Journalists Kovach and Rosenstiel examine that frightening prospect in this book that looks at how Americans will sort out news and information as journalism struggles in the Internet era. After offering historical perspective on the way news gathering has worked and its current state of uncertainty, the authors offer sound lessons on the “tradecraft of verification” necessary for Americans to sort out truth from vested opinion. They offer examples of how reporters typically verify information in contexts from covering wars to politics. They break down the process by emphasizing the kind of information content (news versus commentary); its completeness, source, and tested evidence; and, finally, what readers are learning from what they read. Applying their criteria, the authors analyze several instances of news reporting, commentary, talk-show haggling, and blogging to discern how readers, listeners, and viewers can sort through the cloud of information. Kovach and Rosenstiel combine journalism and civics in this valuable and insightful resource to help Americans adapt to an era that demands that readers become their own editors and news aggregators. –Vanessa Bush

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