March 10, 2004

Whither knowledge?…

A long-time Rhetorica reader has posted comments recently about her frustration with the press’ seeming inability to, among other things, get the facts straight and present them in a fashion as un-spun as possible. Consequently, she considers the many blogs she reads to be superior sources of information and knowledge.

It seems this thinking is growing (re: this post on a discussion of weblogs at Harvard) According to Tim Porter:

While newspapers must continue to be in the basic news business (a good question though is how to reshape and scale that basic reporting), and even should become online aggregators themselves to preserve their position as a dominant news source, their sole distinguishing capability from other daily media is the production of quality journalism. Newspapers remain the largest local and regional repositories of trained journalists. They have more people, more gear and, still in most cases, more audience, than any other individual medium.

But without a commitment to excellence — and that means turning their full attention to their audience, their community, their potential readers — newspapers will be further relegated to irrelevance by readers who want informed reporting, contextual information and, at times, sophisticated argument.

Let’s review Neil Postman’s definitions of information, knowledge, and wisdom:

Information: Statements about facts in the world.
Knowledge: Organized information embedded in a context.
Wisdom: The capacity to know what body of knowledge is relevant to the solution of significant problems.

The “contextual information” Porter mentions is the stuff of knowledge as defined by Postman, who argued that a newspaper, to be at all useful to citizens (and, therefore, worth buying), must be a medium of (local) knowledge. Information is easy to find. Knowledge is in short supply–or was in short supply. But I contend, contrary to what Postman believed possible for the internet, that weblogs are rapidly becoming a knowledge medium. As I note the passion and credentials of the writers of some of the best weblogs, I’m wondering how much longer it will be before these citizen journals become a wisdom medium.

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  1. Beltway Traffic Jam

    Today’s linkfest: Tim Cavanaugh notes that we always get over it. Andrew Cline differentiates between information and knowledge. Deinonychus antirrhopus: March 2004 Archives” href=”″>Steve Ve…