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Is more really more?

The Great Dave suggests that the New York Times should make all its source material available, even the stuff that doesn’t make it to the newspaper.

He says “This is good for everyone. We need more data. Most people think that Saddam Hussein blew up the World Trade Center”

Is lack of information really at the heart of the problem? Is publishing more stuff like that really such a good idea?

The problem isn’t the shortage of data. The problem is many-fold:

– the data isn’t accurate enough.

– the data isn’t being adequately scrutinised and interpreted into meaningful, reasonably objective information.

– the consumers of the information aren’t working hard enough or simply don’t have the skills to convert what they read and see into useful knowledge.

Just adding more data to the situation is not going to help. If anything, more information is just going to make things worse. At the moment, despite all their problems, many ‘quality’ newspapers make a reasonably decent fist of reporting and interpreting what’s happening in the world. Nobody who reads the New York Times cover-to-cover believes that Saddam Hussein blew up the WTC.

Anyway, newspapers have enough difficulty standing over the stories they do actually publish, without having to account for all the stuff they would have thrown away as well.

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  1. This a classic case of where less is more. Already people feel overwhelemd by information — the job of a good journalist is to try to sift that into key elements in under 1000 words, usually. An intelligent reader with broader or deeper interests can explore further using the web, libraries, hey, even *blogs*. I think bloggers often can and do provide the other source material for those who want such detail.

    At any rate, how would such material be supplied and who would do the transcribing of notes etc? Who will pay for this additional work and who will do it? I can tell you that with the deadlines most working journos are on, it could not possibly be them unless consumers want to pay considerably more for their daily read and media outlets decide to hugely increase pay and staff. I’d drop down to about a story a week and would need an assistant completely au fait with my handwriting, working methods, and thought processes to help supply my source material in a consumable format. Not to mention that regularly, some of the source material cannot and should not be named — and in the US that anonymity is a constitutional right. Many legal and ethical issues would arise.

    But hey, I’m willing to try if someone wants to pay me more, give me the assistant, digitise all reading materials from press releases to brochures and obscure publications, and cut my weekly story load! :^)