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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

The fake, the faux, the facts, the future

March 30, 2017 | By Robert Thomson, Chief Executive—News Corp @newscorp

Robert Thomson Chief Executive of News Corp gave a talk at the Asia Society at the Hong Kong Center on March 29, 2017. As Thomson put it, his talk could have been called “The Fake, The Faux, The Facts, The Future … The Flawed, the Fallible, the Fictitious and, it seems, the Fraudulent.”

Needless to say, his talk covers significant ground on the key issues faced by our industry today.

The full text is below, but here are some of the highlights:

The Duopoly

The digital duopoly has rewritten the rules in a way that has written much journalism and integrity out of the script.

Google’s commodification of content, which knowingly, willfully undermined provenance for profit…followed by the Facebook stream with its journalistic jetsam and fake flotsam, have created an eco-system that is dysfunctional and socially destructive.

Both companies could have done far more to highlight that there is a hierarchy of content, but, instead, they have prospered mightily by peddling a flat earth philosophy that doesn’t wish to distinguish between the fake and the real because they make copious amounts of money from both. For them, free content has been free money.

[We must] not be arrogant about the value of what we do. What we do is valuable, but we have to understand how people read, what they read, when they read, that’s changed, and unless we channel that value to readers in a way that’s relevant not only to their interests, but their lifestyle, then we are making ourselves redundant. So that’s the challenge.

Personally, it’s been a bit of a lonely road to walk, challenging Google all these years, and now challenging Facebook, because too many editors have been seduced by that Silicon Valley sensibility.

They are the most powerful publishers in history. And yet they don’t have – they haven’t inherited that tradition of debate about the role of being a publisher, and so they’re being very reactive in the way that they respond to controversy.

Tyranny of the Algorithms

Another area that clearly needs much attention is those algorithms that Silicon Valley companies and Amazon routinely cite as a supposedly completely objective source of wisdom and insight. And yet they also blame algorithms and not themselves when neo-fascist content surfaces or when a search leads to a skewed results and higher prices (that would be Amazon) or to hopelessly obviously biased results in favor of its own products (that would be Google).

It really is time to pay more attention to these algorithms, which are clearly set, tuned and adjusted by the companies to suit their own interests and are far from being objective. When a digital company next blames the autonomous, anarchic algorithm for this or that indiscretion, please mock them mercilessly.

They naturally love the idea of outsourcing responsibility and insourcing money. These are cool, cutting edge companies and their very coolness has sucked in the susceptible…As G.K. Chesterton said: “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

It really is time to pay more attention to these algorithms, which are clearly set, tuned and adjusted by the companies to suit their own interests and are far from being objective. When a digital company next blames the autonomous, anarchic algorithm for this or that indiscretion, please mock them mercilessly.

Data, Dayta and Value

Ideas aside, we were supposed to be in a magic age of metrics of both dayta and data. (You say tomato, I say dayta.) And yet, instead of perfect precision, we have the cynical arbitraging of ambiguity—particularly in the world of audiences.

Facebook recently said that it had a problem with four of its metrics, only four of 220 metrics. Those four were: the weekly and the monthly reach of marketers’ campaigns; the number of video visits; and the time spent reading articles. Honestly, when those four fundamentals are out of whack, who cares about the other 216 measurement metrics and what were they exactly? Was metric number 172 decaf coffee consumption in Facebook’s cafeteria?

Anyway, if you are an ad agency or a social platform and have realized that there is money to be made in arbitraging ambiguity, there is indeed endless fun to be had and endless money to be made….so for example, why pay full price for the Wall Street Journal audience when we can aggregate it for you, just for you, 81 percent of the Wall Street Journal audience, and sell it to you for only 17 percent of the price…such precision, such accuracy, such balderdash.

The Company You Keep

And so, as The Times of London has reported brilliantly, you end up with socially-aware, prestigious advertisers on extremely disreputable sites, and that would be hardcore porn sites, neo-fascist sites and Islamist sites, and worse than that, these sites may well getting a cut of the commission, so you are technically funding these nefarious activities. I’m not going to saturate you with slides, but as you all well know, a person without PowerPoint is Powerless and Pointless, so here are a couple of illustrative examples.

Naturally enough, legions of advertisers are now realizing that, at the very least, their reputation is at stake by such juxtapositions with jaundice. The ad agencies are also clearly at fault because they, too, have been arbitraging and prospering from digital ambiguity.

And then more generally, there’ll be a broader debate about the profundity of provenance, and that will help Reuters, that will help the Wall Street Journal, that will help The Times of London and other papers that clearly invest a lot in the credibility of their news, and therefore create an environment that is one of integrity.


Full text of Robert Thomson’s talk:

In fact, my alliteration was a little underdone…and I could have also have cited The Flawed, the Fallible, the Fictitious and, it seems, the Fraudulent.

Whenever I give a speech, I do feel a little fraudulent – an individual demanding the attention of the many. The excesses of ego and the sheer attention can distort self-perception like PwC accountants at the Oscars, accountants who somehow came to consider themselves as celebrities, simply by being in the company of the glitterati, as though it were an infectious disease. But instead the accountants became celebrities for the wrong reasons…the notaries became notorious. So every podium should have a trapdoor and that trapdoor is generally triggered by hubris, so if I do fall through…

Anyway, there’s nothing quite like a little Marcus Aurelius in the afternoon. And as he said “The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.” I can assure you that it is a mark of your sanity that you are at the Asia Society today, and while there is no insanity in the room at the moment, there will certainly be a certain amount of inanity in this speech. The insanity is elsewhere.

And it’s definitely an opportune moment to grapple with the fake and the faux, the flawed and the fallible – these are real issues and have been for a decade or more, but the faux has suddenly become real because the full scale of the changes wrought upon the integrity of news and advertising by digital platforms has become far more clear. The digital duopoly has rewritten the rules in a way that has written much journalism and integrity out of the script.

Google’s commodification of content, which knowingly, willfully undermined provenance for profit, and then followed by the Facebook stream with its journalistic jetsam and fake flotsam, have created an eco-system that is dysfunctional and socially destructive.

Both companies could have done far more to highlight that there is a hierarchy of content, but, instead, they have prospered mightily by peddling a flat earth philosophy that doesn’t wish to distinguish between the fake and the real because they make copious amounts of money from both. For them, free content has been free money.

And depending on which source you believe, they have about 80% of the digital advertising market and, per one interactive advertising bureau related estimate, well over 90% of the incremental increase in advertising over the past year. The only cost of content for these companies has been lucrative contracts for lobbyists and lawyers, but the social cost of that strategy is far higher, as is becoming painfully and thankfully clear.

It is risible, no, no, no, beyond risible, that Google/YouTube, which has earned, literally, hundreds of billions of dollars from other peoples’ content, should now be lamenting that it can’t possibly be held responsible for monitoring that content – monetizing yes, monitoring no. But, it turns out that free money does come at a price.

Obviously, we all have to work with these companies, to a gradual lesser extent, and we are hoping, mostly against hope, that they will finally take meaningful action, not only to allow premium content models that fund premium journalism, but also purge their sites of the rampant piracy that undermines creativity. Your business model can’t be simultaneously based on both intimate, granular details about users and no clue whatsoever about rather obvious pirate sites.

These are polarized and polarizing times, and this is certainly not intended to be a political treatise or per se a critique of the media. I’m still a reforming editor, having been escorted away from the Editor’s desk at the Wall Street Journal to the Chief Executive’s desk. A desk that is, of course, in a resolutely trendy open plan office.

But when outside America, it is always worth reminding audiences that so much of the coverage of America is a caricature of America, and that has long been the case. And so when a larger-than-life character like Donald Trump becomes President, you do have a compounding effect. I travel for work a fair amount and it is fascinating to see, for example, the apoplexy in, say, the UK about the US at present. Clearly there is transition, even upheaval – that’s readily narrated most minutes of most days – but, abroad, externally, there is also a confirming of preconceptions, if not prejudices, about America that is itself unhealthy.

One of my responsibilities, or pleasures indeed, is to oversee HarperCollins, the world’s best book publisher, and so I am often asked, presuming literacy, what books I would recommend on this or that subject. There are two books I would suggest reading if you want a deeper understand of the pre-conditions that have carried contemporary America to its current place.

Firstly, Coming Apart by Charles Murray, which Harper Collins sadly didn’t publish. The semi-rhetorical question now asked is, ‘who on earth could have predicted the outcome of the election?’ Actually, Charles Murray predicted the outcome five years ago. Coming Apart explains, statistically, how the lack of shared experiences, economic, social, spiritual, has created a consciousness conflict – emptying out empathy from many communities.

It’s not just a frustration at missed opportunities, but also a concern at the erosion of values and status, and the poverty of educational opportunity, leading to a lack of mobility. As the son of a barman in a pub in rural Australia, northern Victoria, in what we Australians call the bush, it’s hard not to be acutely conscious of inequality. But an even more profound cause of the fraying of the social contract is a lack of mobility. And, by the way, if you do stop by my birthplace, Torrumbarry, make sure you do have a cooling, calming glass of amber nectar in the pub.

The other work that has become a particular hit in the post-election period, as the coastal elites try to understand how the rest of the country wasn’t in seamless sync with their self-centered sensibility, is Hillbilly Elegy, by JD Vance, a work we thankfully did publish, and which was much discussed on election night itself. It thoughtfully captures the sense of journey from rural to industrial and that frayed social fabric. It is interesting that the author wrote recently that he wants to return to his roots because the exodus of the talented and motivated has cratered a community that is struggling to find role models and mentors in its midst.

The continuing, if now swirling currents of globalization still prevail – there are of course parochial passions – but, in terms of investment flows and tourism, globalization is still a powerful, commercial and cultural force. And then there is digitization. Saturation point for digitized experiences cannot be too far away…we are theoretically far better informed than we were and yet that is a questionable proposition. We do seem to have disappeared up the vortex of our verticals. It’s certainly not the preserve of one particular segment of the political spectrum, but social media has become more anti-social and the algorithms lack rhythm.

And there is, as we’re discussing today, certainly, belatedly, a focus on fake news and fraudulent advertising. Another area that clearly needs much attention is those algorithms that Silicon Valley companies and Amazon routinely cite as a supposedly completely objective source of wisdom and insight. And yet they also blame algorithms and not themselves when neo-fascist content surfaces or when a search leads to a skewed results and higher prices (that would be Amazon) or to hopelessly obviously biased results in favor of its own products (that would be Google).

It really is time to pay more attention to these algorithms, which are clearly set, tuned and adjusted by the companies to suit their own interests and are far from being objective. When a digital company next blames the autonomous, anarchic algorithm for this or that indiscretion, please mock them mercilessly.

They naturally love the idea of outsourcing responsibility and insourcing money. These are cool, cutting edge companies and their very coolness has sucked in the susceptible … As G.K. Chesterton said: “Fallacies do not cease to be fallacies because they become fashions.”

Let’s, for example, look at how Google games the searches for its own products – an independent assessment found that in 25,000 random Google searches, ads for Google products appeared in the most prominent slot 91 percent of the time. How on earth is that not the unfair leveraging of search dominance and the abuse of the algorithm? All 1,000 searches for “laptops” started with an ad for a Chromebook. That is 100 percent of the time. Candidly, Kim Jong-un in North Korea would be envious of results like that at election time.

And then there are the recently launched Google snippets, which stylistically highlight certain search results as if they were written on stone tablets and carried down from the mountain. Their sheer visual physicality gives them apparent moral force. Of course they, too, are the result of algorithm tweaking and tugging, and so when you type in the eternal question: “Is Google a monopoly” you get the eternal answer elevated in semi-transcendent type….

Oh ye of little faith, how could you have doubted the digital deity.

The word Orwellian is flagrantly used and abused. But when it comes to the all-powerful algorithms of Google, Amazon and Facebook, otherwise known as GAF, Orwellian is unused. The institutional neglect has now left us perched on the edge of the slippery slope of censorship. There has been no tradition, as there is at great newspapers, of each day arguing over rights and wrongs, of fretful, thoughtful agonizing over social responsibility and the freedom of speech.

What we now have is a political backlash with which these omnipotent companies are uniquely ill equipped to cope. Their responses tend to be political and politically correct. Regardless of your own political views, you should be concerned that we are entering an era in which the two most powerful news publishers in human history, and I say that again, the two most powerful news publishers in human history, are going to routinely and selectively “unpublish” certain views and news. The obviously grotesque is obvious, but the arguably wrong may be right.

And we stumble into this egregious era at a moment when the political volume in many countries is turned to ten. The echo chamber has never been larger and the reverb room rarely more cacophonous. It’s not just what is said, but how it is said. In a world of fruity, voluminous views, the temptation is to amp and ramp up the volume to be heard above the fray, which itself is fraying the social fabric. This is not an entirely new trend but it also has compounding effect with a combination of “holier than thou” and “louder than thou”…hollowing out with the industrial concern of a decade ago, hollering out should be a concern now.

Curiously, this outcome is a result, in part, of the idealism of the Silicon Valley set, and there’s no doubt about the ideals; it devoutly believes it is connecting people and informing them, which is of course true, even though some of the connections become conspiracies and much of the information is skimmed without concern to intellectual property rights. The dangers of idealism were understood by Adam Smith, who was not the theoretical barbarian of legend, but a thoughtful muser on matters economic, social and much more: “virtue,” he said, “is to be feared far more than vice because it is not subject to the constraints of conscience.” In other words, the idealist can quickly become the ideologue.

Ideas aside, we were supposed to be in a magic age of metrics of both dayta and data. You say tomato, I say dayta. And yet, instead of perfect precision, we have the cynical arbitraging of ambiguity—particularly in the world of audiences.

Facebook recently said that it had a problem with four of its metrics, only four of 220 metrics, and those four were: the weekly and the monthly reach of marketers’ campaigns; the number of video visits; and the time spent reading articles. Honestly, when those four fundamentals are out of whack, who cares about the other 216 measurement metrics and what were they exactly? Was metric number 172 decaf coffee consumption in Facebook’s cafeteria?

Anyway, if you are an ad agency or a social platform and have realized that there is money to be made in arbitraging ambiguity, there is indeed endless fun to be had and endless money to be made. So, for example, why pay full price for the Wall Street Journal audience when we can aggregate it for you, just for you, 81 percent of the Wall Street Journal audience, and sell it to you for only 17 percent of the price…such precision, such accuracy, such balderdash.

And so, as The Times of London has reported brilliantly, you end up with socially-aware, prestigious advertisers on extremely disreputable sites, and that would be hardcore porn sites, neo-fascist sites and Islamist sites, and worse than that, these sites may well getting a cut of the commission, so you are technically funding these nefarious activities. I’m not going to saturate you with slides, but as you all well know, a person without PowerPoint is Powerless and Pointless, so here are a couple of illustrative examples.

 

Naturally enough, legions of advertisers are now realizing that, at the very least, their reputation is at stake by such juxtapositions with jaundice. The ad agencies are also clearly at fault because they, too, have been arbitraging and prospering from digital ambiguity.

The money in the ad business has shifted from actually making ads to serving ads, aggregating audiences, and ad tech, better known as fad tech. Until very recently, these agencies have not properly informed their clients about the potential consequences of advertising in the twilight zones of Google and Facebook sites.

Now the embarrassment for these advertisers, naturally conscious of their image, is understandable, but the situation is far more serious than mere loss of face.

Because of YouTube, that is Google, there is a real chance that some of these clients have been funding extremism, whether it be Islamist excess or neo-fascist nonsense….depending on the type of advertising, it is estimated by the ad industry that a YouTube partner, which I can’t believe some of these now are, could earn about 55 percent of the revenue from a video. The rate will vary with the type of ad, but you get the picture. In recent years, how many millions of dollars have been channeled to organizations that are an existential threat to our societies? Obviously, there will inevitably be more formal investigations by authorities in coming months, and it will be interesting to see where these investigations lead.

And there is rightly much debate in the UK now about the encryption of WhatsApp messages that would provide an insight, alleged, into the activities of the terrorist behind last week’s tragic attack in the precincts of British Parliament. Now, of course, Facebook, the WhatsApp owner, said that it can’t assist. That’s a little rich from the company that, when it bought WhatsApp in 2014, said it would absolutely not share data between the Facebook function and the WhatsApp function. The very same company announced last year that, err, well actually, it would indeed share data to improve ad targeting—in other words, to enable Facebook to make more money from your personal data. So much for the original promise. Anyway, these sorts of obvious contradictions are starting to be highlighted – and the awakening is indeed becoming a reckoning.

Provenance is profound and reputations are precious, and I do think that in this age of augmented reality and virtual reality, that actual reality will eventually make a comeback. To have experience is to live life to the full. Authenticated authenticity is an asset of increasing value in an age of the artificial. And understanding the ebb and flow of humanity will not be based on ersatz empathy, but real insight.

And so while in this region, I thought it efficacious to give an example of how tastes are changing far faster than we realize, and that there is as much confluence as there is confusion.

So, for example, it is fascinating to see beer drinking habits evolve in China and evolve exponentially. Despite being born in that rural Australian pub, I’m not really a beer drinker. But as a correspondent in China in the mid 1980s and as a visitor to far flung rather gritty, highly unhygienic places at that time, beer was sometimes the safest drink to have with a meal. Now the Chinese middle class, and it is still growing rapidly…have 600 million or is it 700 million Chinese been emancipated from grinding poverty since the market reforms began to take hold three decades ago?

Anyway, now that middle class is sampling micro beers and tippling Belgian brews that have their origins in the abbeys and monasteries. Religion may have been the opiate of the masses, according to Karl Marx, but religious brews are now preferred drink of discerning Communists.

Meanwhile, Chinese tourism is nothing new but we are certainly yet to comprehend the full scale of this changing tide of humanity. Those who do understand the changing needs and wants and desires of Chinese will prosper –the coming collapse of China has been coming for a long, long time. As Confucius, sagely noted – and if anyone is sage it is The Sage: “Some are born with knowledge, some derive it from study, and some acquire it only after a painful realization of their ignorance.” That latter category is the one I fall into.

A second regional digression…When I was a correspondent in Japan, I spent time in rural Kyushu trying in the early 1990s to understand the fate of the provincial economy, provincial times, at the time, and the cultural consequences of economic rise and subsequent retreat. I came across a charming couple who had recently visited Hawaii. They were thoughtful and contemplative about the experience. They were on a group tour and the tour guide marshaling them had warned them not to venture out beyond the confines of the group itself and had suggested that AIDS was a serious, almost random, threat. Meanwhile, their hotel wall was rather thin and they didn’t want offend the neighboring guests so they spent most of their time indoors, whispering.

You can imagine why a risk-averse guide would tell such fear-inducing stories…but you can also imagine why that couple came back to Kyushu and told their friends in the community that international travel was not quite the thrilling experience that they had anticipated. And you can see how for this thoughtful, actually adventurous couple, the myth of Japanese touristic timidity was perpetuated. They were paralyzed by an early form of fake news.

Perception and misperception are basically the buy and sell of social psychology. To get a different view of the world I visited a hedge fund in London recently. The founder’s own life story is fascinating, from having been the son of Russian exiles in Harbin, to becoming an officer in the Australian military and much more besides. Anyway, investors have all sorts of strategies, some taking advantage of micro movements in currencies and others looking for so-called value stocks. His strategy is to look for macro-political and economic movements that are being misjudged and therefore related assets are being mis-priced.

And so at a peak time of rhetoric about the media and rhetoric from the media, perceptions, he believes, are particularly distorted. If he does navigate with nous through this foreign forest of misperceptions, he will surely become wealthier still, and any person in business able to discern the emerging reality from the hazy shapes on the horizon will benefit disproportionately.

So if you can actually discern the virtue that is veracity in the midst of the manufactured morass, you will certainly be rich in spirit and, if it is one of your aims in life, you may even become wealthy.

And so having assailed you all mercilessly with the fallacious, the faux, the fake, the fabricated and the downright fraudulent, may I finish with two quotes, one from the late, great David Foster Wallace:

“The fraudulence paradox was that the more time and effort you put into trying to appear impressive or attractive to other people, the less impressive or attractive you felt inside — you were a fraud.”

And the final quote from a different Marxist, Groucho Marx: “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

——————–

Excerpts of responses to audience questions

on the issue of advertising in undesirable online environments

…Essentially a lot of advertisers that support journalism through revenue, both directly and indirectly, have been sold a perfidious puff, which is that they were being put on reputable sites, and in good company. And clearly they weren’t.

And over a period of just a few months around news, fake or real, advertising, fake or real, we’ve had a wholesale reconsideration, and you would hope that as a consequence, that CMO’s at big companies would say, now hold on a minute, I’m going to make sure that my ads appear in an environment that is good for my brand and not bad for my brand. And I certainly want to make sure that I’m not funding terrorism. Because it’s almost as basic an issue as that.

And then more generally, that there’ll be a broader debate about the profundity of provenance, and that will help Reuters, that will help the Wall Street Journal, that will help The Times of London and other papers that clearly invest a lot in the credibility of their news, and therefore create an environment that is one of integrity.

 on whether Google and Facebook are two powerful for democratic societies

…They are the most powerful publishers in history. And yet they don’t have – they haven’t inherited that tradition of debate about the role of being a publisher, and so they’re being very reactive in the way that they respond to controversy. And you do wonder whether they’ll start to invest more, and frankly be more candid about their roles as publishers, because they claim to be technology companies, to absolve themselves of any responsibility for what they publish. They’re clearly publishers.

This very debate, the reason to be provocative about it, frankly, is to hopefully be catalysts for more sophisticated debate within society, but also within those companies as they realize the pressure is on them. And you can try and lobby your way out of a difficult situation but the questions that they face, and that we face as a society, are actually verging on the existential, when it comes to how aware are we, who is controlling the flow of information, and it’s on the cusp of being Orwellian.

what kind of soul searching can news organizations do; how can they improve to counter these trends

The first thing we all have to do is not be arrogant about the value of what we do. What we do is valuable, but we have to understand how people read, what they read, when they read, that’s changed, and unless we channel that value to readers in a way that’s relevant not only to their interests, but their lifestyle, then we are making ourselves redundant. So that’s the challenge.

Second is to make the case. Personally, it’s been a bit of a lonely road to walk, challenging Google all these years, and now challenging Facebook, because too many editors have been seduced by that Silicon Valley sensibility. They go to the Googleplex, they’re wined, they’re dined. They’ve seen the future, and they’ve been made to feel, I would argue through their own personal weakness, that unless they embrace that theology, then they themselves are somehow redundant.

You’re starting to see now…even at the Guardian, the new editor, the new chief executive, is speaking out in a way that I would agree with. But it’s taken a long time. It’s taken too long. The question thoughtful people like to ask themselves, now that these issues are so obvious is, why weren’t they embracing them earlier, and why weren’t they arguing for their own provenance earlier?

regarding what is the right model and business opportunity to make things better

…It will be a pluralist model. Ad agencies too are now confronting these very same issues because they too aggregate audiences. And there’s no doubt that certain types of digital advertising on Google and Facebook work very well.

No one is questioning that. The question is two things. One is the scale of their influence, and frankly the mis-sold perception of perfect reach. These things will play themselves out. There is no doubt a new generation of digital websites. But it’s not clear that any of them are making ends meet at the moment, and once you create more of a demand for premium content, and that is really one of our great arguments with both of these companies, that, look, don’t penalize subscriber content. Just make it more available.

Because if you do that, you become a catalyst for a reappraisal of content generally, and these other sites, if they could, would they be a hybrid of subscriber and advertising, they would, but at the moment, that doesn’t work, and it’s simply because the hierarchy has been flattened out.

And it goes back, if you think about it, if we were sitting around, conceiving of Google News, and we thought, well, look, let’s get the best content from around the world, and let’s highlight it, and highlight its provenance, because provenance – where it came from – is as important as what it is, because you can then make judgments about its veracity.

Guess what? The history of content changed at the moment the people at Google News decided we’re going to use the same font, we’re going to disguise the provenance, we’re not going to use the masthead of the New York Times or the Daily Telegraph, or the Wall Street Journal. We’re going to use the Google font. We’re going to Googlefy it, which commodified it. And made one type of news source visually the same as another. So the point President Obama made about when you’re seeing a hyperlink now, you don’t know whether it’s a Nobel Prize winner or a crank…That was the moment the history of content changed.

regarding concerns over the echo chamber effect in the world today

…Is the World Wide Web not really the world, not particularly wide, but narrow, and a web of intrigue? And it’s not one we imagined the World Wide Web was meant to be.
But if it’s true we’re frankly disappearing into our verticals for reassurance, and partly because of our reading habits, that the serendipity that goes with any newspaper – the interview you didn’t expect to read, the story you thought you had news on, but actually it’s challenging your perception, and your preconception, newspapers played a great role…

…The question is, has that serendipitous, eclectic sensibility been undermined by the technology that we would all like to think is life-enhancing, and society-improving, and that we’re in an age of e-enlightenment, when in fact, because our views are being reinforced so vigorously in our vertical, that our perception of the world is narrow rather than wide.

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