Better not read

    If you believe everything you read, better not read.
    — Japanese Proverb

The Japanese figured it out a long time ago but I think it’s a lesson forgotten by most. Millions of people around the world flock to news sources to find out about current events. Whether it be about a remote village in Africa, the financial turmoil of America or what Jennifer Aniston is currently eating, there’s an implicit trust. A trust that the information they are getting is fair and unbiased.

Some people — unfortunately, not most — have figured out that some news sources are more trustworthy than others. It’s more than a simply dichotomy of news sites and gossip magazines. Some people have figured out that so called “news networks” aren’t really delivering news, they’re delivering entertainment.

If we stop looking at what “news networks” are telling us and look at what they want from us, it’s very enlightening. Do the news sources want to give us fair and unbiased news, inform us about current events from around the world, and give a detailed analysis so we can understand the events within the context of our lives? Maybe. Do they want to make money? Definitely. And there’s the rub. They make money, not by the reliability of their news, but by how many people are viewing it. How can they get more people to watch it? Make it more interesting — even if it twists the truth to make it more entertaining.

This irks me, especially when it presents a poor image about people whom I respect. The average reader will pick up the paper, read a story and believe it to be true. Why? Because of the implicit trust.

They did it to Alan Greenspan last fall when he presented his testimony to congress and they’re doing it now with Warren Buffet (“Buffett admits mistakes in annual Berkshire letter”). I just read Berkshire Hathaway’s most recent shareholder letter and all the things they said in the article are true — except they’re not. The title is already misleading implying that the main subject of the share holder letter was Buffett’s mistakes, which is clearly wasn’t. The article also quotes parts of his shareholder letter to find fault in Buffett. Clearly, this wasn’t the most important point of his shareholder letter. The article can be summed up as Buffet made a couple of mistakes. However, this is taken out of context where his wildly successful investment decisions along with his very candid communication to shareholders do not come into play.

I’ve come to abhor entertainment posing as news. There’s room for news as entertainment — just don’t pretend it’s anything else. I’ve come to learn that if I really want to learn about a subject, I’ll dive straight into the primary sources instead of looking through the second-hand rosy coloured glass that most modern news sources put on. I advise everyone to do the same, otherwise, better not read.