Paul Graham - News that are not News - Fortune

Paul Graham - News that are not News

And when I read, say, New York Times stories, I never reach them through the Times front page. Most I find through aggregators like Google News or Slashdot or Delicious. Aggregators show how much better you can do than the channel. The New York Times front page is a list of articles written by people who work for the New York Times. Delicious is a list of articles that are interesting. And it's only now that you can see the two side by side that you notice how little overlap there is.

Most articles in the print media are boring. For example, the president notices that a majority of voters now think invading Iraq was a mistake, so he makes an address to the nation to drum up support. Where is the man bites dog in that? I didn't hear the speech, but I could probably tell you exactly what he said. A speech like that is, in the most literal sense, not news: there is nothing new in it.

Nor is there anything new, except the names and places, in most "news" about things going wrong. A child is abducted; there's a tornado; a ferry sinks; someone gets bitten by a shark; a small plane crashes. And what do you learn about the world from these stories? Absolutely nothing. They're outlying data points; what makes them gripping also makes them irrelevant.

As in software, when professionals produce such crap, it's not surprising if amateurs can do better. Live by the channel, die by the channel: if you depend on an oligopoly, you sink into bad habits that are hard to overcome when you suddenly get competition.

Author Paul Graham
Work “What Business Can Learn from Open Source” (Footnote)