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Breaking: BSR contributor launches newsfeed!

How do we get our news?

5 minute read
Gathering around the TV to watch some centrifugal bumble-puppy.
Gathering around the TV to watch some centrifugal bumble-puppy.

Much has been made lately about the news-gathering habits of modern Americans, and indeed, the habits of newshounds all over the world. As print newspapers and magazines die slowly nationwide, readers seem to be finding what they feel they need to know from a variety of digital formats, some of them highly suspicious or clearly slanted in their reporting practices. (Insert joke about Fox News here.)

Indeed, even academia has embraced this phenomenon as though it is simply a matter of the evolution of the collective Human Mind. For example, this past fall, when I received the recommended (read, required) language for my syllabus for a course for first-year students at a university I just retired from, I found this language: “There was a time when most people obtained their news from daily newspapers, radio, and television. These days people get their information from a much wider variety of sources including Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vine, Reddit, podcasts and more.”

In the class, the students were going to do some fairly obtuse writing about identities, social goods (read: payoffs for authors), and discourse communities. They would focus on such things as Facebook posts, “news” pieces from a chosen “platform” such as Buzzfeed, or the deep thoughts of presidential candidates in fewer than 140 characters, and we would all take this as seriously as analysis of, say, The Federalist Papers or something else actually worthy of consideration by budding analytic thinkers.

This last thought is a matter for another discussion another day.

Now the PCCNFEF

The point is that we have all become fairly sloppy about where we look for information to feed our minds and possibly act on. However, it is what it is, and in that spirit I am happy to announce that on December 18, I transformed my Twitter feed into a highly respected newsfeed on par with Reuters, the Associated Press, CNN, and so on. This was facilitated by a simple profile change to my Twitter account: @ricksoisson is now the People’s Carefully Crafted Newsfeed from East Falls. I am no long a mere “teacher, writer.”

My next task: growing my follower base. I’m hoping to reel in Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift because, well, you know. As Mr. Trump would say, they’re HUGE. However, I have already achieved one milestone on the road to Twitter immortality. As I type this, I have one more follower than those I follow. This ratio, as per the experts (read, my 19- to 25-year-old students), is quite important.

(Reminder to self: Find out what an RSS actually is and find out if it costs money.)

But back to sales: On my first day as a respected newsfeed, I am pleased to say, I featured retweets of several important stories decorated by my cogent and concise analysis (read, snarky and adolescent remarks). These matters included two fine pieces on Philadelphia Eagles players, the bromance between Don Trump and Vlad Putin (a matter of mistranslation?), some kid in Texas suffering from “affluenza” who killed four people driving drunk and then disappeared, Martin Shkreli (the drug price gouger), newlyweds, Mother Teresa, and the death of a red panda at Norristown’s Elmwood Park Zoo. This, of course, was exhausting but well worth the effort. The day before I became, officially, a highly respected newsfeed, I was pleased to include a retweet with a link to an opinion piece by Dan Rottenberg, who reminisced about his published recommendation in 1991 that Richard Nixon and Donald Trump be executed. What more could a well-informed Publick Man need?

You too can join a discourse community

Now, you are surely saying to yourself that this is a shameless matter of self-promotion by a fellow who desperately hopes to somehow monetize his Twitter feed. Nothing could be further from the truth — that is no more credible than the notion that Mexicans entering the United States aren’t rapists. I simply hope to have a few people join the discourse community comprising my already linked followers, who include a sustainable jewelry maker in London, a “bitcoin artist,” a CNN news anchor, an “ad dude/actor/utility infielder,” and the retired Lehigh Valley IronPigs mascot, just a sampling of folks who would have been welcomed for a pint with Dr. Johnson or the Algonquin Round Table drinkers. And be honest, your childhood dream always was to be part of a discourse community.

Not centrifugal bumble-puppy

Far be it from me to suggest that Huxley was right about “man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions,” or that Neil Postman was right in ’85 when he called his book Amusing Ourselves to Death. This is about the news, not centrifugal bumble-puppy[1]. It’s certainly not about amusing ourselves to death while patting ourselves on the back for being well-informed.

The People’s Newsfeed also hereby pledges to continue the approved pirating (retweeting) of vital news provided by its reputable brethren such as CNN, the Associated Press, and Reuters to accomplish its mission of informing the public responsibly. Watch also for important field reports from Jarhead, a Marine Lance Corporal; Vinnie the Crumb, apparently a personality on Wildfire Radio; and Motorcycle Scan Tool.

[1] “A ball thrown up so as to land on the platform at the top of the tower rolled down into the interior, fell on a rapidly revolving disk, was hurled through one or other of the numerous apertures pierced in the cylindrical casing and had to be caught.” — Description of centrifugal bumble-puppy, Aldous Huxley, Brave New World.

What, When, Where

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. By Neil Postman. Originally published in 1985. Available at Amazon.

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