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Staying in the loop

Reading Dusty's great blog gave me my topic for today.

As I've mentioned before, I'm a news junkie. "Glutton for punishment" is another applicable description. There have been occasional attempts to shield myself from the steady stream of information that now comes to us in an instant from anywhere on the planet, but in the end, I wanna know.

NPR is not paying me to say any of this:  People who follow the news on public TV and radio get a much different view from those who tune in to network news or most daily papers. This is changing, though -- there are almost as many kinds of "news experiences" available now as there are people.

Let's say you don't especially care about what's going on in North Africa at the moment. But you might have a Twitter feed or Facebook page with a few hundred friends, and a few of those folks do care about Libya, Egypt and Tunisia. They post a link to a story, and because you're interested in what catches their eye, you click. And you learn. Your perspective changes, whether you want it to or not.

About 5 years ago, NPR was broadcasting continual updates on the scandal involving Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, Ralph Reed and Native American casinos. It's quite possible to tune out the more in-depth aspects of a story, even if you hear it every morning on the radio that wakes you up. But you still get the general gist. You know bribery is involved. You know someone's been naughty.

So, without realizing it, I took all this knowledge to work with me. At the office we had an array of meeting rooms, large and small. One, though, was reserved as a "no-food zone" by the top exec at our location. It was a place with a lot of electronics, and he didn't want breadcrumbs and mayo gumming up the works. He even frowned on coffee, though water was okay, as long as it was in a bottle with a screwed-on cap.

One day, however, a luncheon was scheduled, and we learned it was to be in that room. As we came in and took our seats, I said to the person (a supervisor) who reserved the room, "What did you do to get this, bribe Jack Abramoff?"  In return, I got that classic smile that says "I have no idea what you're talking about, but I don't want to look stupid, so..."  It was then that I realized I had a different relationship with the news than other people at work did. It was a rare instance of knowing I was kind of the odd person out in a situation, and feeling good about it.

Fast-forward to my current job. My co-workers are much more likely to listen to Fox than NPR or even CNN. And so, not surprisingly, I heard plenty of misplaced outrage promulgated by the right wingnut rumor mill regarding President Obama's Asia trip in November of last year. The first I heard about it was on NPR, where a political analyst wasted no time reporting the rumor and then breaking it down into facts and figures. It was about three days after that when the crew at work started ranting about it. So, not only was their information plain wrong, it got to them late.

I think knowing the truth about things is a choice we make. I might enjoy speculating that Sarah Palin is a lizard person from the fourth dimension, but until I hear it on NPR, I will give her the benefit of the doubt that she is not.


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