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The (Dis)information Age

The Persistence of Ignorance

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Shaheed Nick Mohammed

The (Dis)information Age challenges prevailing notions about the impact of new information and media technologies. The widespread acceptance of ideas about the socially transformative power of these technologies demands a close and critical interrogation. The technologies of the information revolution, often perceived as harbingers of social transformation, may more appropriately be viewed as tools, capable of positive and negative uses. This book encourages a more rational and even skeptical approach to the claims of the information revolution and demonstrates that, despite a wealth of information, ignorance persists and even thrives. As the volume of information available to us increases, our ability to process and evaluate that information diminishes, rendering us, at times, less informed. Despite the assumed globalization potential of new information technologies, users of global media such as the World Wide Web and Facebook tend to cluster locally around their own communities of interest and even around traditional communities of geography, nationalism, and heritage. Thus new media technologies may contribute to ignorance about various «others» and, in this and many other ways, contribute to the persistence of ignorance.

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8 Information Age Journalism and Ignorance 135

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8 Information Age Journalism and Ignorance ne of the last professions one would usually associate with ignorance (particularly in an age of information plenty) is journalism. In the popular imagination, the valiant men and women of the press were traditionally associated with uncovering facts, exposing corruption and generally keeping the public well informed with credible and useful material. Feldstein (2004) even cast journalists as being similar to oral historians who aim to educate the citizenry and protect historical knowledge for the future. If these are rather romanticized views, they may be tempered by the under- standing that the history and practice of news is somewhat more politically involved and economically driven. O’Boyle (1968, p. 300) noted the “intimate association between journalism and politics” that could be found, for example in the French newspaper business of the early 1800s where “writing for the newspapers was regarded as a normal step in a man’s political career and an accepted means of gaining political office” and that in England, Germany and France “the occupation combined belles lettres, reporting, and political agitation” in varying measures (p. 290). Today’s increasingly corporate-minded, and corporate-owned journalism is further influenced by the whims of powerful corporate owners who indirectly or directly determine editorial leanings and story coverage. According to Dugger (2000, p. 49), The owner of the corporation appoints the CEO who appoints the managers who appoint the editors. Those editors dependent, through the intermediate executives, on the pleasure of the owner and the CEO, hire and fire...

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