Blur | Bill Kovach

Summary of: Blur: How to Know What’s True in the Age of Information Overload
By: Bill Kovach

Introduction

In the era of endless internet-based information, the book ‘Blur’ by Bill Kovach offers guidance on navigating through the overwhelming world of news consumption. Users of our mobile book summary app can expect an insightful look into the challenges and concerns of sifting through countless sources of news, opinions, gossip, and more. The book emphasizes the importance of vetting the content we consume by suggesting a skeptical approach and practical six-stage method. As journalism evolves, the summary discusses multiple emerging roles and highlights the need for a shift in focus towards informative, reliable, and relevant reporting in order to better serve the modern reader.

Self-Service News

The way people consume news is changing, with self-service becoming increasingly common. Traditional media like newspapers and TV compete with countless internet-based sources. People are creating their own “news packages” by picking and choosing from the vast amount of information available. This raises concerns about the reliability of information and the cracking of traditional media’s business models. The internet has separated editorial content and advertising, with companies like Craigslist taking revenue from established media. Employment has dropped in traditional media, threatening their reliability and relevance. However, classifying and qualifying information correctly is a skill anyone can learn. The true gap in information intake now exists between careful and careless news consumers.

Mastering Skepticism for News Literacy

Lay readers can learn to question information for themselves by following six stages of skepticism. Journalists exercise skepticism by questioning what others tell them and relying on firsthand information instead of hearsay. This approach requires classifying content to determine its comprehensiveness and assessing its source, evidence, explanation, and relevance. By practicing these techniques, news consumers can engage with information proactively and become better equipped to determine its validity. A news literacy course at the State University of New York at Stony Brook teaches students to categorize content as journalism, propaganda, advertising, publicity, entertainment, or raw information.

Forms of Journalism

This summary explores the different forms of journalism and their impact on news distribution. According to the author, journalism can be produced in four forms: verification, assertion, affirmation, and interest-group focus. Out of these, the journalism of verification values accuracy, while the journalism of assertion prioritizes speedy communication over thoughtful reporting. The journalism of affirmation selectively conveys facts to affirm what their audience already believes, with minimal contextual background and fragmentary reporting. The last form, interest-group focus journalism, flows from biased, industry-funded studies designed to resemble objective research. The advent of nonstop cable TV news programming, 24 hours a day and seven days a week, led by Cable News Network (CNN), has bolstered the spread of the journalism of assertion. In addition, the growth of the internet has fortified the media culture of continuous, endless news delivery. With purveyors of the journalism of affirmation focusing on celebrating their audience’s opinions, consumers should be watchful for an inherent passivity on the part of journalists whose priority is reporting information immediately after it becomes available, usually without the filter of formal editing. The summary concludes with the author’s caution to be alert to the likelihood of manipulation when multiple sources use the same language to describe an issue or event.

The Art of Professional Journalism

Professional journalists use a checklist of who, what, when, where, why and how to ensure their news articles are complete and credible. They go beyond standard reporting by publishing lengthy reports to give context to the news. They also use a variety of sources, including eyewitness accounts, secondhand information, and expert opinions, to make their reports more believable. Aspiring journalists should seek humility in asking questions that cannot yet be answered, acknowledge what they do not know, and avoid inferring conclusions that cannot be proved.

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