Flutterby™! : Looking for a news source

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Looking for a news source

2009-01-30 00:59:38.519242+00 by Dan Lyke 5 comments

In light of my attempts to become more involved in the community where I'm setting down roots, my constant whining about how bad "journalism" is, and the fall of newspapers and traditional reporting with the rise of the web, I thought I'd put down a few notes about what I'm looking for, and willing to pay for, in a news source.

Let's take this article about Californian's backing tax increases and a spending cap in response to the looming budget deficits. What I want on this topic is a fairly quick article giving me the major factions/voting-blocks in the California legislature, what each of them is pushing for, and, at a high level, what the options and trade-offs are for those decisions. For instance, I know that a good portion of California's budget is out of the hands of the legislature, commanded by the fiat of Propositions, or by Federal mandates.

Instead, I get content-free crap like:

"The worries are across the parties and across the regions," Baldassare said. "In California, no group is immune to the downturn and the worry that it could affect them next."

There is nothing I can do with the (very little) content in that statement. Yes, the overall article is about a poll taken of California residents, but that's an article I don't need to read unless the article shows me how those feelings are reflecting themselves in the legislature, and I know what issues I can be either urging my representative to vote for or against, or what issues should be important to any potential replacements to my representative.

Charlene and I have been looking for some better news sources. We've been buying Business Week and The Economist, but the former too often ends up being a personality and celebrity magazine, and I find the latter interesting, but I don't often deal with much of the international focus of it.

I know that there are more expensive special purpose analysis services, the one that comes immediately to mind is Stratfor, but most of the articles I've read from there seem to be written for non-native speakers of English looking for an American perspective.

It seems like a lot of this could come from some sort of citizen journalism initiative, but at the state and national level it probably needs to be paid for. I don't see anyone stepping up to that plate, however.

[ related topics: Politics Current Events Journalism and Media Community Economics ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-30 01:09:38.419265+00 by: Dan Lyke

And if you want to see why print newspaper is dying, presumably that article I linked to above actually made it into the print paper, while this blog entry about the environmental impacts of Republican proposals in the legislature languishes hidden on the web site.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-30 02:24:00.751148+00 by: ebradway

What you want isn't a "news source" but an "information source". Even The Economist comes down to analyses based on particular points of view. It seems more substantive because if the depth the analysis is described. I used to like The Wall Street Journal for the same reason.

The problem is that information is hard to aggregate. Maybe if your City Council, local schools, police department, etc., started RSS feeds you could subscribe too... Or you can just go buy a multiband scanner like the olden days!

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-30 03:54:48.067463+00 by: Dan Lyke

Except I think I do want analyses rather than raw data. For instance, I'm subscribed to RSS feeds of the voting of my various federal reps. Every time I try to chase down what one of them voted for it ends up with me digging through a bill trying to tell what the bill is about (it's never about what the title of the bill is). So I'm willing to pay for summarization.

I guess it's similar to my gripe about technical books: I'll pay more for a shorter book. I'll pay a lot for one-sentence answers to my questions.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-30 11:19:11.492969+00 by: DaveP

One of my local news-sources is the local metblogs site. Mostly their stuff is noise, but every once in a while, there's a gem like this one.

But I also have two "neighborhood" newspapers that deliver to me, and those prove far more useful, even though they're only every two weeks, then the big local dailies.

I don't have an answer for you, but for me, my best investment seems to be sending donations to the neighborhood papers periodically, along with a note thanking them for especially useful articles and asking for more of the same.

#Comment Re: made: 2009-01-30 15:45:35.276717+00 by: ebradway

I guess it's similar to my gripe about technical books: I'll pay more for a shorter book. I'll pay a lot for one-sentence answers to my questions.

This isn't unlike you query about Google - it has to do with structuring information in a way that reflects your world view. Humans are very good at information filtering - specifically separating what is important from what is not important. It's why you can scan probably 20 emails a second and pick out the important ones from the subject and sender while spam filters still let the viagra ads through - despite the fact that the computer can scan millions per second and has access to enormous databases.

AI researchers have kind of duped the world into thinking that they were making more progress than they really were. Actually, they were probably duping themselves as well. The problem is that, since the dawn of AI, the dominant cognitive models have assumed that humans use a heuristic model (something that can be broken down to simpler problems and simple steps to approach a solution). We do use heuristics for problem solving when we need to break things down. But the kind of thinking we do before we reach the heuristic stage defies this cognitive model and cannot be implemented as a computer program.

If you could simply pay someone to answer your questions, you would be a manager. You get paid for your work because of your ability not just to find answers to hard questions but also to figure out what the hard questions really are. And it's the hardest questions that you most want to find in a book. But, if the answer were in a book, you wouldn't be paid to find it!