The great writer I'm referring to is Mark Jenkins, a travel writer with numerous awards, currently a contributor to National Geographic and author of three books. He's from my adopted hometown, Laramie, Wyoming and I got the wonderful opportunity of hearing him speak last night at a local writer's event.
So we've been hearing for decades now about how T.V. is dumbing us down, and now, the Internet? Mark's argument is that people are turning more and more to the Internet as their source of information, rather than newspapers. To paraphrase him, "If your interests are in horses or snowmobiling, the Internet allows you to selectively choose articles that pertain to your interests, and you are less likely to seek out a broad range of news or issues such as provided by a newspaper or news show."
In other words, while the Internet provides us with access to the broadest range of information we've ever had before, at the same time it allows us to stay focused on our narrow area of interests.
His observation hit me head-on because I don't subscribe to a newspaper and I don't regularly watch TV news shows. I get most of my news from the Internet (usually just a quick scan of headlines) and then I focus in on what's of primary interest to me - writing and publishing-related material.
On the other hand, I'm also a voracious book reader, so while I may lose some of the broad exposure to the world via news articles, I feel I gain it back via a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. For instance, no series of news articles could have apprised me of all the cultural richness and issues related to Afghanistan and Pakistan as Khaled Hosseini's books the Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, or Greg Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea.
What do you think? Is the Internet helping us narrow our focus, instead of broadening our minds?
Postscript: "news" is hardly ever objective, of course. Mark has a great article called Seeing the World As It Is, and I had to include this excellent quote:
Americans by and large don’t really understand what’s happening in other countries. And when you go out there on your own two feet and have to buy food from the local market, and have to find of a place to stay and talk to locals, you start to understand how the world is put together. Because if you just stay home and read your local newspaper, you’re not going to have a clue about the rest of the world. The news here is very slanted, and is not representative of the complexities and passions of the rest of the world.