Technology enables information to permeate every aspect of our lives, through social media apps on our phones and breaking news notifications on our watches. New York Times Columnist Farhad Manjoo conducted a personal experiment to take a break from this chaotic world of digital news, staying informed only through "formats that prized depth and accuracy over speed." This left him with essentially one option: print newspapers.
Manjoo unplugged from all social networks and traded in his digital subscriptions for home-delivered newspapers. To receive a variety of news without breaking the bank, Manjoo settled on the Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and his local paper, the San Francisco Chronicle. He also made an exception for some digital magazine articles, podcasts, and email newsletters.
Here's what he learned:
1: Newspapers report news
Though it may sound obvious, print newspapers report "an accurate account of the actual events," Manjoo writes. Online news, however, is "more like a never-ending stream of commentary, one that does more to distort your understanding of the world than illuminate it." He describes this news as "predigested" and filled with opinion-charged takes on news rather than news itself.
To avoid misinformation, Manjoo recommends reading print news and formulating your own opinion on an event or story before drudging through online commentary.
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2: Slow news is accurate news
It takes time to deliver an accurate account of an event, and with printed news, reporters have the time they need to fact-check stories before they run. Breaking, sensationalist headlines dominate digital news, leaving readers with an incomplete portrayal of an event and even sparking conspiracy theories. Consuming news from print alleviated the "the cognitive load of wondering whether the thing I was reading was possibly a blatant lie," Manjoo explains.
3: Social media can be a trap
Manjoo argues that nearly every drawback of digital news can be traced to social media, and he suggests steering clear of news from Twitter and Facebook. He points out that users on these networks face tantalizing incentives to be fast instead of accurate—and to provoke an emotional response rather than to enlighten. In fact, just a few weeks into his digital detox, he noticed the detrimental effects of social networks: "I began to see it wasn’t newspapers that were so great, but social media that was so bad" (Manjoo, New York Times, 3/7).
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