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A First Draft of History? -
March 12, 2005 | WSJ | By BRET STEPHENS

The cliché is that journalism is the first draft of history. Yet a historian searching for clues about the origins of many of the great stories of recent decades--the collapse of the Soviet empire; the rise of Osama bin Laden; the declining American crime rate; the economic eclipse of Japan and Germany--would find most contemporary journalism useless. Perhaps a story here or there might, in retrospect, seem illuminating. But chances are it would have been nearly invisible at the time of publication: eight column inches, page A12.

The problem is not that journalists can't get their facts straight: They can and usually do. Nor is it that the facts are obscure: Often, the most essential facts are also the most obvious ones. The problem is that journalists have a difficult time distinguishing significant facts--facts with consequences--from insignificant ones. That, in turn, comes from not thinking very hard about just which stories are most worth telling....As for the media, it shouldn't be too difficult to do better. Look for the countervailing data. Broaden your list of sources. Beware of exoticizing your subject:
Bret_Stephens  journalism  journalists  critical_thinking  history  signals  noise  frictions  pain_points  worthiness  countervailing  storytelling  seminal_moments  wide-framing  discernment  origin_story  historians  consequential  clichés  worthwhile_problems 
may 2012 by jerryking
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