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Respectable sources April 18, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Online Tools.
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Respectable  The news on newsprint means a lot less to me than it used to. As a young lad, I read the daily comics in the defunct Toronto Telegram then graduated to political cartoons and from there began reading letters to the editor, the “Ask Andy” science column, and the headlines. From there it was only a matter of a few years before I began looking through the paper from front to back, giving only the sports section a pass.

When the Telegram died, I reluctantly began to read the Toronto Star, the Sun, the Globe and Mail, and the local Markham Economist and Sun. I contributed letters to each of them, followed my favorite columnists, and even read some of the books my favorite newspaper writers produced. When I moved to
Arizona in the early 1990s, I picked up the local newspapers such as the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Citizen and a myriad of other less well-known papers. However, as the Internet grew and newspapers shifted online I read less and less from paper.

Using great tools like Crayon.net (Create Your Own Newspaper) I was able to cobble together bits from newspapers like the Globe in Canada, the Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan, The Guardian in England, and The Times of India. I was also able to glean information from American papers like the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and others spread across the country.

Now, with RSS (Real Simple Syndication) I can gather the highlights of the local newspapers each morning and delve deeper into the stories if they interest me. What I find interesting is that I am coming to rely on a circle of around 200 bloggers, like-minded souls whose daily and weekly blogs I either glance at or read intensely. When someone whose opinions I appreciate suggests I ought to read a brilliant analysis of an issue that appeared in a midwest daily or an Australian journal, I will look. They are the ones who are suggesting certain directions and news sources I might never know about.

Before you suggest these bloggers are leading me astray, these same bloggers are just as often the subjects of comments and critiques. I have more often than not seen links to stories that contradict and sometimes challenge the author of the piece one of my unseen guides has suggested. It is all a learning experience. The news is growing and becoming more human and more focused on the consumer. The woman who writes a piece of political analysis in a Des Moines newspaper might have several thousand local readers but through word of mouth and hyperlinks, she might entertain many thousands more readers.

This has crossed my mind this evening because of a lawsuit by the William E. Morris Institute for Justice in Arizona. They are suing the Arizona Department of Education over the use of a test students must pass in order to graduate from high school. They base their case on the well-known fact that there is an inequity in funding for schools in Arizona. They suggest that this inequity of funding means the Arizona test is biased and unfair to students struggling in under funded districts. Their suggestion is that the test must go or the state must fund districts better. The lawsuit may not remove the test, but it will certainly prop up attempts to improve school funding.

I mention this as an aside. I heard about this lawsuit from our Associate Dean who asked me if I had heard of it. I had to admit that it had not come across my radar, but based on his reputation, I investigated the story and added it to my watch list. A reputable source put a story on my radar. This is the heart of what will drive the news in the future. We will seek out comfortable sources of news, embrace them, and seek their guidance for our future reads.

Now if the newsprint journalists can accomplish that task of reaching out to my comfort level, they may just get me to plunk down a quarter or two for their newspapers again.

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