Peter Preston of The Observer and Guardian newspapers writes, "If you choose your own news, you'll be less well read." His argument is that all that information on the interwebs allows people to limit their reading to items that confirm their biases. He feels that readers of newspapers, in contrast, gain by coming across articles "by accident" to which they would otherwise not have been exposed.
His argument is made from desperation, as the Internet opens horizons on information kept scarce by newspapers and broadcasters. I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s being information-frustrated in northern Canada, since our primary source was limited to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, whose creed still today seems to be, "Everyone A Victim."
Once the Internet became reality for everyday people in the mid-1990s, I could peruse many information sources, both broad (from many countries) and narrow (my interests in tech and philosophy). Every day now, I read news voraciously for a couple of hours. I no longer watch or listen to the CBC, because I generally know more about any particular story than do their news readers with their faux-authoritative voices.
Contra Mr Preston, the Internet is what causes us to be "less well read" no longer. By their very nature, it is newspapers and news broadcasts that cause subscribers and listeners to be "less well read." Newspapers are limited by the number of pages, which is determined by the amount of advertising pulled in, while radio and tv are limited by time. Even the BBC, the wealthiest of all news organizations, repeats its stories hour after hour, limiting the amount of news it makes available. A caption in Mr Preston's column (available on line, imagine that!) repeats the gentle lie with which newspaper people console each other: "Print newspapers bring you everything."
Mr Preston forgets that every day newspaper editors and broadcaster producers choose which news to report, and so leave out vast swaths of information. We are forced to turn to the digital media to fill in the gaps created by Mr Preston and his fellow workers.
Mr Preston's plea is not new. It has been voiced before. It belongs to the group of elitists who worry that that this new-fangled digital media prevents them from imposing their point of view on the rest of the world. He yearns for a return to yesteryear, when he could choose your news for you. As he complains in his column, "Digital intrinsically insists on choice." To see information choice as negative is evil.
PS: Where did I learn of Mr Preston's lament? Not from accidentally running across it in a printed paper, but from this digital source: http://mediagazer.com/120103/h1335