24 February 2009

Wikipedia and Opining

Sometimes the addictiveness of certain websites really scares me. Take icanhascheezburger.com for example. I love that website (with a very mild, detached love I mean). It makes me laugh, and shake my head, and roll my eyes, and a lot of times I'll get on it to take a five minute break, but not stop looking at the pages of pictures for at least half of an hour.

It's really rather ridiculous. But today, it wasn't pictures of funny cats and their captions that got me. I fell into the Wikipedia abyss. "It's not a credible source," teachers say. "Stay away from it except for looking up simple things you are supposed to know anyway and will never cite in your papers."

But I was doing research. I was looking at conservative and liberal media, and trying to find a simple list of corporations (papers, networks) that would give me any idea of what everyone else thought. And I did find an article about "Media bias in the United States". It was very easy to find. I can hear the tiny voice in my head of one of my teachers scolding me and making sad tsking noises.

I'm sorry. I'm sorry I read the entire thing. I'm sorry I've turned into every other college student on the planet. It's very shameful, and I apologize.
But where else can you find easy information?
Wikipedia seems to have a little bit of something for anything you want to know. And other sources of information do not lend themselves to the usage of broke college students (hey, that's me!). Sometimes it's just not possible to find information in "credible" news sources.

And would Encyclopedia Brittanica have a side-by-side comparison of the most and least liberal news media organisations in the States? Nope.
"There are no topic results related to your search." Okaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy.... Great. Thanks.

Even I am really tired of hearing classmates and professors rant in class about the decline of the newspaper and how much they hate blogs and Wikipedia and Twitter (and who knows what else) because they demean journalistic integrity, but still. Since even I fall into this hole, I suppose I still don't have a set answer in my own mind.

I do find it incredibly amusing that some students of journalism hate blogs because they contain too much opinion. I am apparently not a "real" journalist.

Now, I really don't think...

Oh, I'm sorry...I forgot that opinion has no place in "real" journalism. I'm supposed to participate, but not contribute, is that it? How in the world can you write an article, not put your opinion into it, and keep a reader from falling unconscious after the second sentence?

Saying that makes me think of my AP History teacher, Mr. Lightfoot. He was an interesting person. Maybe I'll write a profile about him someday. The strangest thing about Lightfoot was his inability to answer questions. At least, that's what we thought it was. Turns out he actually hated history, and only wanted to teach biology. Go figure. Anyways, sometimes we would ask him who his favorite president was. Or even the top five. He would NEVER give us an answer! He'd say, "What I think doesn't matter. I don't want to color your judgment."

The entire class would always bristle at that. Color our judgment? What, are we lemmings? Mindless and hopeless with a penchant for only following the leader?
Yup. Apparently we are.

Why else would we spend so much time complaining that FOX is conservative, the Times is liberal, and that something needs to change? The conservatives want more conservative reports. The liberals want more liberal reports. No surprises there. I find, to my relief, that a large number of the people whining about media biases are at least the informed citizens.

And I believe they're all complaining because the liberals are afraid that people will listen to the Washington Times and turn into Bible-thumping pastors, and the conservatives are worried that people will listen to the Wall Street Journal and become, what? Sorry, I can't think of the opposite transformation. Something about gays? Probably.

Of course, the relief I felt after finding out that journalists are worried about the general population being led astray disappeared quite soon after I remembered that they are, after all, simply complaining and slinging mud at one another.

I did find an article, written in 2005, about the findings of one UCLA professor of political science. Of all of the outlets researched, apparently Jim Lehrer was the most central-thinking. Looks like I'm going to have to do some more research. I wouldn't want to read unbalanced material and stop thinking for myself.

Final thought: Apparently FOX News execs get morning memos detailing the stories of the day and how they will be covered? I actually have heard this before, but I'm still wondering about the truthfulness of the fact. Who's to say the other papers don't get the same thing?

No comments: