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The Economics of News Stories

It’s vital we recognize the harm from informational blockage, lest we repeatedly find ourselves victimized by poor information.

When a big story breaks, like the killing of a major figurehead of a terror corporation, it follows the typical market model.  More stories (firms) enter the market (news stream) given the demand and resources, until the market is saturated (people get tired of it) or a more viable alternative (new story) comes along.

Just as a new product generates a lot of interest (a fad) for awhile, a new meme spreads rapidly until it reaches a point where it hits dead walls (places it either can’t spread due to lack of saliency or where it has already spread) or runs out of steam (the spreaders give up on it).

All systems are informational systems.  The fact that information spread is vital to every aspect of human life still has not quite been recognized by most policy makers.  Secrecy is the equivalent of clogged arteries to an economy; we get heart attacks, where lack of fluidity in the market causes various sectors (organs) to seize and cell death begins to occur (firm closures, downsizing, layoffs).

Worse than simple secrecy is the one-way mirror.  Asymmetric informational flows are poisonous because of the ability for only some firms to recognize trends.  When a piece of information is only available to limited numbers, it can never reach its full potential.  That is why Open Source works: spread the information of how a piece of software is programmed and the result is better software because more eyes swept over it and had the opportunity to refine it.

All of our current problems, from health care to warfare to budget to terror scares, are the result of poor informational flow.  Many of these problems are caused by man-made dams in the information flows, where a single company or an industry seeks competitive advantage or to simply perpetuate their cash flows through the ignorance of others.

It’s vital we recognize the harm from informational blockage, lest we repeatedly find ourselves victimized by poor information.

Citations Needed

A brief rant about the failure of most mainstream purveyors of news to ever cite anything they are discussing, leading to the inability of readers to follow up and get more information without extra effort (sometimes excessive) on their part.

I read news from many sources, and the mainstream media stands out in a reluctance to cite sources.  I’m not talking about their anonymous source for a leak, but common public information like polls and laws and press releases.  Sometimes it doesn’t matter—you can dig it up anyway.  Other times, though, the amount of digging to uncover it (if you ever can) is beyond reasonable.

It’s so easy to cite on the internet, but one supposes the mainstream journalists are from a time when space was too precious to include such important details as bill names or bill numbers or poll sources.  Indeed, sometimes they report on a proposed bill before the legislator in question has even published it or registered it with their house.  But even then, the courtesy of a followup with the concrete details, when available, is not beyond reasonable.

Of the many reasons I dislike and distrust the mainstream media, this is minor, but it is indicative of the unprofessional manner they tend to follow.