About

I’m a practicing patent attorney in the Denver, Colorado area, and I have a B.A. in English from UCLA and a J.D. from the University of Denver. I’m not a journalist by training, and I don’t claim to be one. So why should you listen to me about the quality of news sources? You shouldn’t. In fact, you shouldn’t listen to anyone who tells you that you should think or believe a certain thing a certain way.

But you’ve come to my site to find out what I have to say about the news anyway, so I’ll lay out a few reasons why you could choose to value my assessments. Consider them and then determine for yourself whether this information is valuable to you.

One reason is that I’ve been thinking about, studying, and writing about media assessment and categorization for the past couple of years. That’s not a long time, but given that the present media landscape is unlike anything that existed before, the very concept and field of systematic “media categorization” in the digital era is nascent, so I submit that there aren’t a lot of experts in it yet (there are some, but not as many as in well-established fields). Journalists themselves are engaged in figuring out how to report better in this new landscape; I’m focused on defining what the landscape IS.  I believe the field of media categorization will need to be developed over the coming years so readers can cope with all the information available now. I hope to contribute to this endeavor significantly.

Another reason you could value my assessments is that my formal educational training is in English and law, which is focused on analytical reading and writing. That is a key kind of training one could reasonably rely on for the work of analyzing a large amount of written material.

Another reason is that in my profession as a patent attorney, I have a lot of practice explaining a technical, involved idea through words and pictures, so that someone who initially doesn’t understand the idea can grasp it quickly. I decided to explain the media landscape in pictures and my original media ranking chart resonated with a lot of people very quickly. Popularity alone doesn’t make something right or good, but I respectfully submit that I am making a good faith effort to substantiate something popular (a picture of the media landscape) with something that is right and good (extensive research, data, and analysis that backs up the rankings). I’m working to convey hard concepts about what is in our news to people of all levels of knowledge about the news, and especially to those with very little knowledge about the news.

I’m aware that there are others who are working on these and related issues, and I am aware that there is much that I do not know. The most extraordinary thing this project has done for me personally is connect me to the people who have done good work in this field, and to others who haven’t, but who have really good ideas. I have been able to improve this chart over a few versions because many thoughtful, intelligent, and kind people have engaged with me in discussions about the nuances of categorizing the news. I seek to improve the quality of this work, so I read each comment and consider them carefully (and respond eventually!) Please bring your well-supported ideas to the table. I’m not stubborn. And bring your suggestions for other ways you would like to see this information presented. I’ll do my best to  make it happen.

I look forward to tackling the hard questions about how we can navigate the media landscape, and come out better for it, with you.

——————–

Before I made that media chart, I wrote about other stuff too. Here’s what I originally wrote about the title of this blog.

All generalizations are false, including this one. –Mark Twain*

Really, just MOST generalizations are false. Don’t get me wrong–generalizations are often useful and necessary as a language construct–but ideas that are summed up in absolute terms (especially the ones that include the words “always,” “all,” “never,” and “none”) are usually easily disproved.

Often, much of our civic discourse is reduced into brief generalizations, analogies, platitudes, pithy statements, or–worst of all–memes.** Many ideas are short on words due to the nature of the mediums on which they are written. Social media posts and bumper stickers only hold so many words, after all. Briefly stated ideas are fine sometimes, but the danger of using them as the basis of arguments is that they often fall apart under scrutiny. Even seemingly innocuous statements like “Freedom isn’t free” and “It doesn’t matter what other people think,” though well-intentioned, are just not logically sound. Just because something sounds clever on a bumper sticker or a meme doesn’t mean the underlying idea is true. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but it can also be the soul of bad arguments. Unfortunately, people try to convince each other of the truth of their opinions through generalizations, and they wonder why they seldom work. Here, I’ll do my best to take a deeper look at some briefly-worded arguments and sayings that make me sigh with exasperation, and patiently deconstruct them.

I’ll also post about other topics I get excited about. This can include a lot of things, so there won’t be just one thematic structure to all these posts. I’ll discuss politics, religion, sports, relationships, interpersonal communication, networking and public speaking, and sometimes law, because I am a lawyer and I can’t help it.

Thanks for reading and thinking.

*The internets attribute this quote to Mark Twain, which I found disappointing because I swear I thought of it on my own as well. I quote him here for the purposes of integrity, and I suppose Mark Twain’s thoughts were floating around in the ether when I stumbled upon them.

**Note: The author finds the use of memes completely appropriate for the purposes of non-argumentative humor. Like, any use of cats to make a joke on a meme is perfectly acceptable and hilarious.

17 thoughts on “About

  1. I love your writing and I would like to get updates. Do you offer an email subscription?

    1. Thanks! Working on it!

  2. […] Above is an interesting and potentially useful chart on the reliability of news. You can find the maker’s musings here. […]

  3. Great minds can sometimes think alike. You in relation to Mark Twain. Sometimes the great ideas can be thought of by multiple people at different times independent of each other.

  4. Hey Vanessa!
    If you have a minute, I’d love to talk with you about featuring your news chart and AGAF on a “call to action” website I’m developing. Thanks for what you do!

  5. I also came up with the “All generalizations are false” few years ago, and only now I’m realizing it’s Mark Twain’s. According to the rule of acceptance, since few people in different times and places thought of something, it must be true.

    Thank you for the interesting blog.

  6. While my experience with the news sources you include largely matches yours, I wonder if it would be possible for you to also include some information / credentials about yourself on your blog.

    1. Thanks for the reminder–I know that was missing. I’ve updated my about page.

  7. Hi Vanessa – someone shared your “Chart, Version 3.0” with me, which I think is great. Just wanted to thank you for taking on a thankless task — this sort of reasoned, dispassionate approach is in such short supply these days, and I really appreciate the work you’re doing to try to make sure people have good information. Thanks!

    1. Hi Frank! Thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate it!

  8. Hi Vanessa,
    I would love to use The Chart, Version 3.0, in an article I’ve written. The article is entitled “Five Easy Steps to Speaking Out.” It will be published on my local Democratic party website, as well as some local Indivisible sites and shared via Facebook. Do I have your permission to use the image with a link to your excellent article?
    Thanks!
    Michelle

    1. Hi Michelle,

      Yes, you have my permission. Thanks for checking!

      Vanessa

  9. Hey Michelle,

    Have you thought about how Plato’s Divided line informs your work? His hierarchy, starting with Eikasia, Pistis (Opinions) and progressing toward Dianoia, and Noesis (Knowledge), contains similarities to your approach. A philosophical approach like this might offer additional insights as you refine your taxonomy of categorizations. I see that your work is already informed by your background in English (textual interaction and characterization), Law (principles of admissibility), and practice (Patent Adjudication). If your approach is informed by some other historical and theoretical approaches, I and I’m sure many of your readers would be interested in those insights.

    Cheers,
    Max

    1. Hi Max. I haven’t thought about that, but I am looking for additional philosophies and approaches that can inform my work. There is much to draw from. I’ll certainly read up on Plato’s Divided Line, and perhaps we can discuss it more in the future. Cheers!

  10. I think I’ve found somebody who thinks just like me. (Suggests the risk of “confirmation bias”)

  11. Hello,
    We are covering “Fake news” and media literacy a lot in our 8th grade classes at my middle school. Can we present the chart to our students?

    1. Yes you may. Thanks for asking!

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