Sunday, June 9, 2013

'tailoring' the news

My daily reintroduction to the Internet includes a tour of various news sources. I hardly know what I am looking for, but I go looking anyway: My Way News, the BBC, Reuters and UN-Cast, pretty much in that order. If some story catches my fancy, I may reach out to The Guardian or al-Jazeera for a wider look. I skip the great American news organizations of the past, The Washington Post (too unsure of its footing) and The New York Times (too assured of its footing).

I want to know what's happening in the world, but I'm getting a little long in the tooth to believe that news organizations are likely to tell me the whole story. I am satisfied with hints and to some extent grateful for the efforts.

After getting a general sense of who's killing whom and the collateral-damage suffering that that implies and after sniffing the latest political maneuvers here and there and after taste-testing scientific or sociological trends, I fall back on "all news is local" and the particular stories of particular people who exemplify or are somehow curious-making.

And the last stop is might just be labeled as "weird shit" -- or stuff that seems odd to me. Sometimes funny, sometimes bizarre, sometimes just fun to think about... stories that I have somehow winkled out and been delighted by.

But I get testy when I think that news organizations might be tracking my interests like some slithering merchant -- tailoring its web site to my previous choices of stories to read. Is it true or is it paranoia? I really don't know, but the thought makes me irritable. I don't want news that I will like ... I just want whatever news an organization finds worthy. Maybe I'll agree. Maybe not. The organization's job is to make its own informed judgments and then allow me to make my own.

This morning, for example, I was scanning the BBC and came to a "Most Popular" box. The stories listed within it all correlated with weird or bizarre tales I might have chosen. The coincidence was too compelling on the one hand and too annoying on the other -- I hate being grouped with the "most popular" anything. Yes, I had already read the story about about male Swedish subway drivers wearing skirts, but that was because a friend had sent it along and I like to pay attention to my friends. And I might well have been interested in "Why Finnish Babies Sleep in Boxes" or "The Singing Nun of Kathmandu" or "Hero Dog Returns to Philippines" or "The First Book of Fashion." But were these stories really the most popular or were they simply a reflection of my past interest in "weird shit?"

I dislike being sales-pitched under the guise of being 'helpful' -- and this is particularly true when it comes to news. It's unimportant on the one hand, too paranoid by half on another, and too mediocre on yet another. To the extent that it's true I am being tracked like some WalMart shopper, it reminds me of a time when the newspaper I worked for affixed the American flag to its masthead. That one small act let me know that the newspaper -- qua newspaper -- was destined for the shitter. News isn't "American" and it certainly isn't what Adam Fisher likes.

But I suppose I am over-reacting and unduly crabby.

1 comment:

  1. Big brother is here to take care of you. Big brother knows best.