Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Bouncing around

So I'm feeling well and have taken a day off from blogging to catch up on some needed rest. I spent some of yesterday ironing and some at the mall, just hanging out and shopping.

Kmart has some gorgeous plush blankets, they have to be seen to be believed! They're marketed as faux mink, but they're printed and coloured in such a way as to mimic zebra and leopard fur. So they're actually faux faux fur... or as we say when the French are unfashionable, "pretend make-believe fur".

My first rant for this morning, and although I've not had coffee, I am on my second cup of tea, is about information.

I don't have a television and when people come to my house many enquire where it is. My loungeroom is arranged around the coffee table - which is great since we love coffee. We also have a music room of sorts. It used to be the third bedroom then an extension was made and it became a library with two more bedrooms coming off it. It has our sterio along one side and the piano sitting comfortably in the other half (it's a semi-concert!) with the couch arranged suitably and some beanbags piled in the corner. And that's it! I wouldn't know where to put a TV!

Yet people keep saying (and this really is true) "But what about watching the news?" I keep saying it but nobody listens - TV news is pure entertainment. You're not supposed to learn anything from it. If you do, that's OK, but it's really just supposed to make you watch the ads. Is this true of ABC and SBS? In my experience, they're better but ABC is too easily distracted by appearing professional and reaching the masses. In each case the content gets dumbed down to a few soundbites and pretty pictures. SBS used to make a great news presentation but of course they only cover world issues. While I'm interested in nodding disease, I'm a little concerned that even in my own country, there are some sensational scoops going unreported because it's currently unfashionable to ask hard questions. Particularly close to me is copyright law. Why nobody kicked up a stink I don't know, but I would have thought there was a lot of interesting stink to be made.

So we explain that the Internet is now used for delivering interesting multimedia and that we have a good connection. Now let me complain for a moment about how Internet news works. You go to a typical news site, such as ABC. OK, so the front page has some interesting stories, a German pope and an update on all the Aussie kids picked up taking drugs out of Indonesia. I don't think the churchy story is of much interest but 30-odd percent of Australia is Catholic so they'll probably disagree.

Here are a few examples of what is missing in these stories:
  • These legal stories rarely have all the evidence presented methodically. Instead, they follow the traditional newspaper method and just write the most interesting sentence at the beginning and the least at the end.
  • There is never any indication of how the stories reported affect the reader - and they often do. Example - traveling to Asian countries exposes one to risk. How about a discussion of the risks and rewards?
  • Why isn't anyone worried about the new Pope? He's calling himself Benedict, indicating that he wants to take a Zen approach, but he's also one of those who thinks we're all going to Hell and has given a speech about how he wants to close everyone's mind. Instead of presenting the important bits, the story is reporting on the ceremony. Discussion can be found through links at the end.
  • In other news, Brendan Nelson is suggesting Australia go nuclear powered. Instead of lauging at him and pointing out how much tide, wind and sunshine we have, everyone's saying "what about disposal?"
As you can see, my biggest issue is the lack of independant thought from the journalists. That's why my favourite sources of news are:
  • Hack on Triple J, a great current affairs program where they investigate claims made by Australian lawmakers and often show them to be ill-informed or just plain stupid.
  • Newscientist news, which discusses the issue, rather than just reporting who said what.
  • Silly news such as Fark. Partly because as a blog it can just link to the best article, and partly because it dredges up stuff I never would have realized. I usually just scan the headlines.
  • Local news - I love RiotACT by Johnboy. With a slashdot comments engine, anyone can make a comment, so the reporting better be good!
  • Or indeed slashdot. Yes there's a lot of rubbish there, but the moderation is getting quite good again and they report a lot of interesting news items in Your Rights Online and Science
Sometimes I miss out on important news items, but I'm always informed in such a way as to make intelligent decisions about my life, which is a pretty good start. There is, after all, a lot of news available today. It's better to accept the information and let the entertainment slide.


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