Blogs and bias

24Sep04

A bit of a homerun in the FT today http://news.ft.com/cms/s/d70a0844-0d94-11d9-a3e1-00000e2511c8.html talking of weblogs and bias in the US, how this is affecting politics and the reporting of news. Essentially this is a story about the fragmentation of the media and the pressure on network TV journalism to retain the attention of the public. But there is a more worrying side in relation to the observation by John Allen Paulos about social dysfunctions and the mass media and the phenomenon of phase transitions–the point that something will come into existence once sufficient connections have been made, and then its appearance, once unpredictable, becomes routine. The internet, through blogs, but also through bulletin boards and chat rooms, provides active destinations for people with particular prejudices to find constant confirmation and reinforcement for their possibly erroneous views. This is the confirmation bias that my own experiment with the Economist is designed to challenge, admittedly though the Economist itself may be just such a location for me. (I think they challenge my biases often enough for this not to be a big worry, and using one publication once a week provides something that feels a bit empirical.)

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