The Desperate Need For Context in a World of Information Overload

Romenesko points us to this quote from NBC anchor Brian Williams:

“Jon Stewart is “the vitamin supplement” while network news is “the main meal…”

Brian goes on to warn people about using the Daily Show as a primary source of political news.

“If all you know about news is Jon’s take, it’s getting a bit skewed,” Williams says. “If you ever get confused between satire and reality, you’re prone to lose sight of the real stakes. “

The funny thing is that I enjoy Jon Stewart because he tends to put things in perspective for me. He (and his writing staff) have no problem finding an absurd quote that sends shivers down your spine about an important issue in the world, and saying exactly that. Others may present it without context, providing more info, and then letting the viewer piece it all together. In today’s age of information overload, there is little time.

Perhaps we could each make these vital connections on a few topics, but I would imagine few of us have the time for evey issue in politics along, let along world news, finance, social issues, etc.

Meanwhile, Williams works diligently to keep his objectivity in tact:

“What Williams doesn’t do is discuss his personal politics with anyone – including his wife and kids.”

Another element of information overload affecting viewing habits is that there is no shortage of sources that “present” news to us. Information is everywhere – what we need is context.

It is this reason that blogs have become so successful. To me, the subjective connections made in some blogs are not a detriment to objective news, they help me understand and digest the news.

Take the entry I posted a couple days ago Newspaper Circulation: Declines, Falls, then Plunges. In my opinion large media outlets already give commentary on the news, via headlines such as those.

That said, I certainly agree with Brian that it is not healthy to rely on a single source for news. I cope with this via 100+ RSS feeds, browsing websites, and reading newspapers and magazines. But what about people who have to find the time to raise a few kids and each hold down a job do?

Cutting information overload to find a way of delivering news & information that is concise, context driven and passionate, is the key to reaching more people. I don’t watch Jon Stewart because he’s funny. I watch him because he evokes a sense of passion with issues that are meaningful to me. Do I trust his views to become my own, or fully reflect a topic? Of course not. But it is refreshing to see someone who presents news in that manner.