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10/19/2005
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Staying Current

How do you keep up-to-date with current news?  And how do you determine what is newsworthy? As recently as ten years ago, the answer would undoubtedly have been from network television and newspapers.  Today, ways of staying informed include:

  • Online newspaper and media  sites (such as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and CNN)
  • Weblogs 
  • Podcasts
  • RSS feeds
  • E-mail alerts
  • SMS alerts
  • Satellite radio
  • E-mail subscriptions (newsletters)
  • Web discussion forums
  • E-mail from mailing list discussion forums
  • E-mail from friends and colleagues
  • Various "news" Web sites

Technology has, of course, made the world smaller and information travels faster.  In the past 25 years, much has changed.  It is noteworthy that CNN, an august news institution, covered its first papal election this past May (and consequently had no experience in doing so) because CNN didn't exist in 1978, when the previous Pope was elected.  

Further, in the recent past, the lines between different media types have become increasingly blurred.  For example, in my car, I can listen to CNN as well as the BBC World Service thanks to Sirius Satellite Radio.  At home, I get the various news programs (Tagesschau, Heute Journal) from German TV, which is a partnership of the ARD, ZDF, and Deutsche Welle, the same day as viewers in Germany see them.  I can also watch television programs on my computer via IP TV software.

Many of these I know to be authoritative sources, such as the New York Times' Web site or CNN.  But here too, the lines begin to blur.  How authoritative is one of the dozen or so e-mails my friend Dave Farber posts to his Interesting-People remailing list?  Dave, a founding father of the Internet, doesn't vet his posts; rather, he sends them out and lets the recipients determine their worth and validity.  But on the Web, it is hard to discern one Web site from another, as Web design tools have lowered the barrier to entry so ANYONE can be a news source.

So how is the average knowledge worker supposed to tell the difference between a source and an authoritative source.  Peter Steiner's prescient 1993 cartoon, "On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're A Dog," is telling.  When Google provides a knowledge worker with search results comprised of 354,968 documents, how can one know for sure which is the dog?

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