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.