Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload

Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload

by Bill Kovach
     
 

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Amid the hand-wringing over the death of "true journalism" in the Internet Age-the din of bloggers, the echo chamber of Twitter, the predominance of Wikipedia-veteran journalists and media critics Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel have written a pragmatic guide to navigating the twenty-first century media terrain. Yes, old authorities are being dismantled, new ones

Overview

Amid the hand-wringing over the death of "true journalism" in the Internet Age-the din of bloggers, the echo chamber of Twitter, the predominance of Wikipedia-veteran journalists and media critics Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel have written a pragmatic guide to navigating the twenty-first century media terrain. Yes, old authorities are being dismantled, new ones created, and the very nature of knowledge has changed. But seeking the truth remains the purpose of journalism. How do we discern what is reliable? Blur provides a road map, or more specifically, reveals the craft that has been used in newsrooms by the very best journalists for getting at the truth. In an age when the line between citizen and journalist is becoming increasingly unclear, Blur is a crucial guide for those who want to know what's true.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Veteran journalists Kovach and Rosenstiel (The Elements of Journalism) begin their intelligent and well-written guidebook by assuring readers this is not unfamiliar territory. The printing press, the telegraph, radio, and television were once just as unsettling and disruptive as today's Internet, blogs, and Twitter posts. But the rules have changed. The gatekeepers of information are disappearing. Everyone must become editors assuming the responsibility for testing evidence and checking sources presented in news stories, deciding what's important to know, and whether the material is reliable and complete. Utilizing a set of systemic questions that the authors label "the way of skeptical knowing," Kovach and Rosenstiel provide a roadmap for maintaining a steady course through our messy media landscape. As the authors entertainingly define and deconstruct the journalism of verification, assertion, affirmation, and interest group news, readers gain the analytical skills necessary for understanding this new terrain. "The real information gap in the 21st century is not who has access to the Internet and who does not. It is the gap between people who have the skills to create knowledge and those who are simply in a process of affirming preconceptions without growing and learning." (Nov.)
From the Publisher

“The authors offer sound lessons on the 'tradecraft of verification' necessary for Americans to sort out truth from vested opinion... Kovach and Rosenstiel combine journalism and civics in this valuable and insightful resource to help Americans adapt to an era that demands that readers become their own editors and news aggregators.” —Booklist (starred)

“Kovach and Rosenstiel provide a roadmap for maintaining a steady course through our messy media landscape. As the authors entertainingly define and deconstruct the journalism of verification, assertion, affirmation, and interest group news, readers gain the analytical skills necessary for understanding this new terrain.” —Publishers Weekly

“Insightful... Offers step-by-step analysis of the processes by which the best journalists practice their craft and can have their work evaluated by consumers slogging their way through the mire of available information.” —Kirkus

Blur is an impassioned and practical brief for what its authors call ‘verification'--the effort by journalists and others who publicly exchange information about public affairs to examine evidence and test the truth value of the assertions they and others are making. It argues persuasively for the virtues of traditional journalism without in any way resisting the sweeping changes the Internet has brought to the profession. It's hard to imagine a more urgently necessary task, for journalism and for democratic societies, than the one Kovach and Rosenstiel have taken on.” —Nicholas Lemann, Dean, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

“Two trailblazing newspapermen make a powerful case that with information reaching us at warp speed, Americans can--and must--learn the tough-minded skepticism that drove the country's great journalists. Kovach and Rosenstiel's riveting, terse book shows how citizens can gauge fact from fiction, discern neutral sources from interested parties, and parse the news as American journalism goes through its big upheaval.” —Dean Baquet, Washington Bureau Chief, New York Times

“If I had $1 million I would buy a copy of this book for every high school senior in America. If I had $2 million, I would use the second million to offer cash incentives for every one of those high school seniors to read what might be the most important book they will read in their lives--the one volume that will help them evaluate everything else they read until the day they die.” —David M. Shribman, executive editor, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“This is one of the most important books of the year. Rosenstiel and Kovach take today's media landscape apart, examine each component--partisan blogs, social media, Web sites that follow the traditional journalistic values, newspapers, networks and cable--and help us understand what they are, the pressures they bring on each other and how together they have changed forever how news is gathered and distributed. Always enlightening and at times scary as when they speculate on how the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident might have played out in the age of cable and the internet, this is a sobering but even handed analysis that should be valuable to all of us in journalism and the citizens we serve.” —Bob Schieffer, CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent

Library Journal
In an age of 24/7 online news coverage, many traditional standards of journalism, such as who counts as a journalist, objectivity, or a defined news cycle, are irrelevant. Breaking news stories are reported by all types of people before the facts are determined, and consumers are left to decide what is true. Media critics Kovach and Rosenstiel (coauthors, The Elements of Journalism) offer practical advice for analyzing journalistic content in this new media environment. They describe four types of news content: journalism of verification, reporting that values accuracy; journalism of assertion, passing along fast-breaking information with no verification; journalism of affirmation, presenting selective information to an audience with specific political affiliations; and interest-group journalism, offering news-type information but sponsored by a special-interest group. Identifying the type of content is the first step in what the authors describe as a skeptical way of knowing. They offer techniques for examining journalistic content for completeness, sourcing, use of evidence, and relevance. VERDICT This well-written critique of contemporary journalism will appeal to academics, journalism students, and consumers interested in the changes in the news media.—Judy Solberg, Seattle Univ. Lib.
Kirkus Reviews

An insightful but dry guide to the challenges of responsible journalism—and the citizenry it serves—amid the technological revolution of news and information.

This is a companion volume of sorts to the co-authors' The Elements of Journalism (2001), to which it often refers and for which it offers an update. Both Kovach and Rosenstiel are respected newspaper veterans, though their concern here is not with the survival of the print medium but with the principles that distinguish news of depth and value from finger-pointing opinion, special-interest propaganda and uninformed gossip. "The challenge for those who produce the news, and those who consume it," they write, "is to apply human values against the inherent bias of the technology." Since technology stresses speed, economy and quick hits over comprehensiveness and verification, readers must become savvier about where to look and whom to trust for the sort of public service that journalism has provided. "At the beginning of this century, it was forecast that more new information would be created in three years than had been created in the previous three hundred thousand years," write the authors, but they argue that the current shift in communication isn't dramatically more significant than previous ones (the written word, printing press, radio and television, etc.). The bulk of the text offers step-by-step analysis of the processes by which the best journalists practice their craft and can have their work evaluated by consumers slogging their way through the mire of available information. The book's major drawback is that the writing is too matter-of-fact, making the rare simile such as this all the more welcome: "In a sense, blogs are like muffins. They are a shape, but the batter that goes into it might run the gamut from chocolate cake to bran."

In building their case for the "Next Journalism," the authors might have offered a little more chocolate, a little less bran.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781608193011
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
08/30/2011
Pages:
240
Sales rank:
614,950
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

In his 50-year career, Bill Kovach has been chief of the New York Times Washington Bureau, served as editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and curated the Nieman Fellowships at Harvard University. He is founding chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and senior counselor for the Project for Excellence in Journalism. In 2004, he was named to the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at Middle Tennessee State University.

A journalist for more than 30 years, Tom Rosenstiel worked as chief congressional correspondent for Newsweek and as a media critic for the Los Angeles Times and MSNBC's The News With Brian Williams. His books include Strange Bedfellows and We Interrupt This Newscast. Rosenstiel is vice chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, and director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Together, Kovach and Rosenstiel have authored two books: The Elements of Journalism, winner of the 2002 Goldsmith Book Prize from Harvard University, and Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media.

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