Saturday, April 27, 2013

All the news that's fit to print(?)

Not that many years ago someone described the Internet as a sea of information that was ankle deep.
Even further back in time I have quite vivid memories of being taught critical thinking by my English teacher in my final year of high school. He taught me to seek out facts even if they weren't the truth that I was looking for.
News and current affairs are easy to come by online. But quality is something that is sadly lacking. Any whack job can publish whatever they want (I certainly am here!) and often people simply lap it up.
Being disillusioned with much of the media I started to look far and wide to see if I could find news, current affairs and opinion pieces that were actually worth reading. Here are the results of my search so far. Please remember that the opinions expressed here are mine and mine alone. Feel free to engage, make suggestions and disagree.
First of all; Twitter. What I've found is that if you're prepared to spend time working out whose postings you want to see here then it is an extremely effective source of almost instant information. Personally I've dumped nearly all of the mainstream media feeds for the simple reason that it's too much, too often and too late. I get my technology news through Wired, Gizmodo and the Australian Financial Review. AFR doubles up nicely for almost all other news that's worth knowing about. I also get a fair bit of coverage from CyclingNews. Other than that I follow a few bloggers, musicians and friends who are interesting and not just tweeting every single thought. The other really good one to follow here is the ACT Traffic Police. While they seem to have the work experience kid doing the actual tweets when the spelling and grammar are considered, the content is very quick and useful.
I do have both the ABC and SBS news apps installed on my phone (and their websites and Twitter feeds linked) but they are average at best. If you were to believe the SBS World News app in particular then all that happens overnight is soccer. And the ABC latest news section can be hours, if not days old. Don't bother with these. I haven't found a news app that's worthwhile yet. But then I haven't paid for any either.
Zite and Prismatic are online services that allow you to setup a list of your interests and then they feed you stories based on these. Zite in particular "learns" and remembers what you've read (and liked) to personalise the feed. Both are free and if you are happy to spend 5 minutes registering and choosing some interests then they're pretty good. Prismatic will also send you a daily or weekly email digest of articles – not a bad starting point or for reading on the bus. Zite's only downfall that I can see is that it is only an app and not available via the web. For crusty old timers like me that's a distinct disadvantage. How long can it be before there is a good app emulator for PC/Mac? For what it's worth, my main interest areas in these two are Gadgets, Guitars, Education, LEGO, Star Wars, Motorcycles, Science & Technology and Cycling. I'm not using them for mainstream news at this point.
Google had a fantastic service called iGoogle. Basically it was a blank canvas webpage that you could add widgets to – widgets that dragged information from all over the web about topics you chose. Sort of like Zite for the web. I used it all the time and it was my homepage for years. But, while it still exists Google is shutting it down soon. Boooooo!
Of course I've tried the major newspapers online offerings (I object to purchasing a hard copy these days even if I do put it into the recycling). And, in my opinion there isn't a mainstream daily newspaper worth paying for – the news is out of date by the time you get it. So unless you're reading for entertainment or the crossword it's a waste of time.
Online most of our papers are advertising vehicles and I find that annoying as well. If I paid would the ads go away?? I'll find out.
There is a bit of an exception here that I've only recently discovered. The Australian Financial Review. For years I was under the assumption that it was dedicated purely to business news and I therefore ignored it. Oh wow, how wrong I was! It's a great font of information on a wide range of topics. The website is very good and I've already mentioned their quality Twitter feed. It's not a bad read in hard copy either but at $3.30 a day it doesn't give me everything I need. My only gripe is that many of their online headlines link to a one sentence article – you have to be a subscriber to read further. For $60 a month you get both hard copy and online versions which isn't bad I guess. I'm still not sold on paying for my news online but I recognise that it costs money to provide a service and that's where subsribers and advertisers come in.
Another new source of online information is . Its tagline is, "academic rigour, journalistic flair" and I think it delivers this quite well. It's a site founded by four of our major universities and the CSIRO. Their blurb states that, "The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public". I've found the articles to be well written and balanced. You wouldn't go there for breaking news, rather for in-depth and well researched opinion and facts.
So there, you go; a few options and things to try out.
But don't believe everything you read...
And it wouldn't be my blog without a couple of songs to finish off. I'm sure you can work out why I've chosen these...
Rollins Band – Liar -
Billy Bragg – Don't Buy The Sun -
Midnight Oil – Read About It -
Thanks for reading.
DJ Rob

1 comment:

  1. Mmmmm I'm in the process of trialing Twitter in place of my RSS feeds. First Safari killed RSS feeds, then Google, so rather than move them all to yet another service (did log into Feedly) but I thought I'd give Twitter a go. I have heard sorting out who you follow is the key.

    I've also been disappointed with many of the mainstream news sources... so might try AFR