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Will the last journalist please turn off the lights?

Epsilon Theory is a Web 3.0-adjacent website which I discounted simply by the virtue of its co-founder having a laser-eyed profile on X, but their article about news coverage of recent events is spot on:

After the deadly explosion at the al-Ahli Arab Hospital, Hamas issued a statement through its Health Ministry claiming as many as 500 or more deaths as a result of an Israeli airstrike. Instead of reporting what was known – an explosion with casualties – while working to confirm details about the scale of the blast, the number of deaths and the source of the explosion, each of the major newswires simply rushed to repeat each of the claims of Hamas verbatim. The Associated Press did it. So did Reuters. So did AFP. The west’s largest English-language news organizations followed suit. The Washington Post did it. So did CNN. So did the Wall Street Journal.

None of it was a huge surprise — things haven’t changed much since the 1999 NATO bombing of Serbia, when I witnessed in real time how pure speculation from a local TV network that was literally accross the street became Sky News scrolling text within the hour — but still disheartening to see after so much ink has been spilled about fake news and sundry.

Even more disheartening: when the stakes are high and facts are uncertain, journalists error on the side of blurting out whatever will get the highest emotional reaction — for the sake of a click. When stakes are low and there is plenty of time for research — they do the same!

This is the part where I note how not all journalists are alike, and indeed they are not! James Fallows' newsletter Breaking the News ocassionally has some brilliant dissections of the prevalining narrative, though he is too often obsessed with airplanes. I already wrote about The Washington Post’s great long pieces. Even The New York Times, has moments of brilliance. And there is always the local news, which is closer to the ground, less able to test the readers' credulity, and on the chopping block.

So with useful daily news (which is to say, local) becoming extinct, and good weekly/monthly journal articles becoming ever more rare, at least the amount of cognitive noise in our lives should decrease! If only we weren’t such suckers for noise-generating machines (which is to say, most social networks).

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