the kicker

What We Need is a “Slow News Movement”

July 28, 2010

Walter Shapiro over at Politics Daily considers how quickly the Shirley Sherrod hackjob spread, viruslike, from Breitbart to Fox News to CNN, and declares that we—editors, reporters, bloggers and readers—need to slow the heck down. Spurred on by the “P.T. Barnum media age…where he who dies with the most clicks wins,” mistakes are made, careers are threatened, and readers’ attention spans are shortened.

The solution, he says, is a Slow News Movement. Journalists need to take more time with reporting and analysis, both so that they can be sure to get the facts right and so that readers will get the proper context. This is not a new argument, of course, but we think Shapiro expresses the idea quite nicely. Some excerpts:

Ask yourself: Do I really understand the world better by getting my news constantly in brief staccato bursts than I did 10 or 15 years ago, when news (even on cable TV) was packaged by editors? […]

The problem is not the new technology of the news, but rather how quickly we have been enslaved by it. Thinking, real thinking, takes as much time today as it did when the news was disseminated by fast-fingered telegraph operators. Deprived of context, facts do not speak for themselves. Analysis and interpretation of the news are needed to spur comprehension — and not just as an excuse for ideological rants and as a way to rack up cheap political points. […]

The news of government, politics and the world is too important to be instantly consumed like a shopaholic racing through a mall. Our democracy simply cannot survive if we fail to see the forest for the tweets.

Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner