Burriss: Chicken and egg news

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The “Washington Post” recently ran a story about how many readers read a story about reading, and found that some 25 percent left the story before they actually read it.

Further research discovered that on average, once a reader gets to a particular internet news page, fully one third of visitors don’t bother to read the stories at all. In worst cases, up to 90 percent of visitors leave a page without reading any of it.

What the research also shows is that people jump from article to article, looking for key words and for something that excites them. If they don’t receive instant gratification, they go on to something else.

And there is no doubt you have seen the same thing: with so much information available, it is almost impossible to digest any of it, so we look for something that simply grabs our attention.

But in our super-complicated world, instant gratification is the last thing we need. People need to immerse themselves in information, from an abundance of sources, in order to make important decisions.

How many of you remember when newspapers and television ran long, complicated articles and documentaries presenting multiple views on the important issues of the day? People apparently read those article and watched those programs.

But there is a “chicken and egg problem” here: did people stop reading, so news outlets stopped running them? Or did news organizations stop running detailed stories, so people began not to expect them?

Whatever the cause, cognitive neuroscientists are worried about this lack of attention to detail and nuance. What happens is the loudest voice with the beguiling slogan, not the most thoughtful voice with the detailed explanation, is the one that gets the attention. And that’s not a good thing.

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Larry Burriss
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