Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload

Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload

by Bill Kovach, Tom Rosenstiel

NOOK Book(eBook)

$10.49 $14.40 Save 27% Current price is $10.49, Original price is $14.4. You Save 27%.
View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now
LEND ME® See Details


Amid the hand-wringing over the death of "true journalism" in the Internet Age-the din of bloggers, the echo chamber of Twitter, the predominance of Wikipedia-veteran journalists and media critics Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel have written a pragmatic guide to navigating the twenty-first century media terrain.

Yes, old authorities are being dismantled, new ones created, and the very nature of knowledge has changed. But seeking the truth remains the purpose of journalism. How do we discern what is reliable? Blur provides a road map, or more specifically, reveals the craft that has been used in newsrooms by the very best journalists for getting at the truth.

In an age when the line between citizen and journalist is becoming increasingly unclear, Blur is a crucial guide for those who want to know what's true.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781608193028
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 10/05/2010
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 240
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

In his 50-year career, Bill Kovach has been chief of the New York Times Washington Bureau, served as editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and curated the Nieman Fellowships at Harvard University. He is founding chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and senior counselor for the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He was named to the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at Middle Tennessee State University.

A journalist for more than 30 years, Tom Rosenstiel worked as chief congressional correspondent for Newsweek and as a media critic for the Los Angeles Times and MSNBC's The News With Brian Williams. His books include Strange Bedfellows and We Interrupt This Newscast. Rosenstiel is vice chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, and director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Together, Kovach and Rosenstiel have authored two books: The Elements of Journalism, winner of the Goldsmith Book Prize from Harvard University, and Warp Speed: America in the Age of Mixed Media.
In his 50-year career, Bill Kovach has been chief of the New York Times Washington Bureau, served as editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and curated the Nieman Fellowships at Harvard University. He is founding chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists and senior counselor for the Project for Excellence in Journalism. In 2004, he was named to the John Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies at Middle Tennessee State University.
A journalist for more than 30 years, Tom Rosenstiel worked as chief congressional correspondent for Newsweek and as a media critic for the Los Angeles Times and MSNBC's The News With Brian Williams. His books include Strange Bedfellows and We Interrupt This Newscast. Rosenstiel is vice chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists, and director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 How to Know What to Believe Anymore 1

Chapter 2 We Have Been Here Before 12

Chapter 3 The Way of Skeptical Knowing: The Tradecraft of Verification 26

Chapter 4 Completeness: What Is Here and What Is Missing? 57

Chapter 5 Sources: Where Did This Come From? 74

Chapter 6 Evidence and the Journalism of Verification 94

Chapter 7 Assertion, Affirmation: Where's the Evidence? 121

Chapter 8 How to Find What Really Matters 170

Chapter 9 What We Need from the "Next Journalism" 170

Epilogue: The New Way of Knowing 198

Afterword 205

Appendix 211

Acknowledgments 215

Notes 217

Index 225

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Blur: How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
shadowofthewind on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel attempt to resurrect good journalism with their book Blur. Both being authors of The Elements of Journalism, this book also has the failing of being as dry as a textbook. However, most of the book has interesting examples of how the government, corporations, and media manipulate the public, and it is our job to be able to identify what is happening. There are different kinds of ways to report a story and if the public can identify what that is, we can better decipher the information or identify manipulation. It¿s critical with so much information and disinformation being thrown at us to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. This book can help us do that, but the book can also address concerns directly at journalists rather than the general public. I¿ve read other accounts of media manipulation from the Net Delusion to The Filter Bubble. Where those two fail, is where Blur succeeds. It¿s the ability to provide tools to decipher the lies and manipulation in a story. Furthermore, it doesn't have quite the dire and cynical perspective about the manipulation, there is something that can be done about it. When it is not attempting to get journalists to go back to their roots, the authors provide examples of key journalists and their investigative techniques. I found these histories fascinating from Homer Bigart¿s reporting that changed the way journalists reported on Vietnam (not taking the government¿s word for anything) to Seymour Hersh¿s reporting (journalism by verification). The authors go on further to identify types of journalism to look for in order to determine if someone is simply stating facts or attempting a journalism of assertion, where facts are picked selectively to prove a point. We have to be vigilant and have ¿Skeptical Knowing¿ so that we use our analytical and skeptical mind to find what¿s being attempted information or disinformation. In todays rush the facts find the truth later type of news as well as the change the information to suit the political points kind of news it's important to understand the distinctions. It¿s also a great analysis of what the news should be, and while much of that is directed at journalists in attempt to turn the ship to best serve the public, it¿s a great lesson everyone needs to learn. Favorite parts/passages:¿Our understanding of the news must be built on a foundation of facts¿an accurate understanding of what has occurred. And this process of moving from understanding to assigning meaning is one that should be arrived at through a sequence.¿ P. 31"When everything is unchecked, all assertions become equal--those that are accurate and those that are not. The news, and journalism, becomes more of an argument than a depiction of accurate events that argument, debate, and compromise can build upon." p. 126"In the new world of information and self-editing, we should be just as wary. Anecdotes illustrate; they do not prove. Single statistics hint, but they do not establish. Examples or stray numbers offered as proof are a red flag. When you see them, take care. They are a sign of cherry-picking, a hallmark of the journalism of affirmation." p. 136"This bring us to the checklist we introduced for becoming a more conscious and careful consumer (a skeptical knowing) of news about the world:1. What kind of content am I encountering?2. Is the information complete; and if not, what is missing?3. Who or what are the sources, and why should I believe them?4. What evidence is presented, and how was it tested or vetted?5. What might be an alternative explanation or understanding?6. Am I learning what I need to?p. 168(less)
Bcteagirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was impressed with this book. It covers a range of information while still remaining accessible and entertaining. It starts with a brief introduction on how technology has changed the media (newspapers to radio to tv and now internet) and what the traditional role of the media has been. It then goes on to discuss the main 'types' of media out there, and how to distinguish between them. From 1) Journalism of Verification (traditional model with high value on truth) to 2) Journalism of Assertion (24hr news stations that don't have time to fact check. 3) Journalism of Affirmation: Less a news source, less emphasis on accuracy, more emphasis on a particular type of politics, cherry picking information that supports a particular type of view and on to new watchdog news sources on the internet (Who tend to only watch one particular group or type of law, leading to a slanted website) and some of the more reliable/balanced websites out there (e.g. polifacts).Within each of these descriptions are interesting real life examples of journalism done right (early examples include reporters who actually went to Vietnam) which help to keep the book interesting. The author concludes with a discussion of what role the media needs to take in the future.The examples are American based, however you could apply them anywhere. Given the state of the media in the USA right now, I think this book should be required reading for all. Four and a half stars.
EAG on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A handy primer of news media and the impact various forms of communication have had on what constitutes ¿news.¿ Kovach and Rosenstiel focus on four key models of journalism: verification (emphasizing accuracy of facts and context); assertion (more passive, focusing on immediacy and volume); affirmation (selective data delivered to an existing audience, less to inform than to affirm a given ideology or mobilize audience members for action); and interest-group journalism (biased, funded by special-interest groups). In examining each of these models in detail, the authors provide readers with a solid introduction to the concept of critical thinking. With the advent of digital technology, where more and more people are self-reliant in sourcing (and disseminating) information themselves, this kind of questioning is vital to determine how meaningful and trustworthy the news we access really is.
goodinthestacks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a librarian, I found that this book just confirmed what I already knew: Not everything can be found on the internet and certainly not everything found on the internet is true. But the latter can be said for anything really; not everything you read or hear is true. Where the information is coming from is extremely important. The person's agenda is important. While it is difficult, it is extremely important for us to be able to discern what is reliable and what is not, but to do that is not easy. This book is a good primer for trying to figure that out, but it all comes down to the reader being able to figure out what is truth and what is not.
dono421846 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A powerful indictment of the channels through which we now receive our information. The authors identify four models of content: journalism of verification (the traditional mode, in which journalists serve as thoughtful gatekeepers, and provide accuracy and context), a journalism of assertion that emerged with 24-hour cable access, offering a passive conduit for speakers with little challenge or editing, the journalism of affirmation that caters to like-minded consumers tending to cherry-pick information to confirm preexisting convictions; and interest-group journalism that includes targeted websites funded by special interest organizations. The existence of this growing variety, the authors argue, places greater responsibility on the consumer to be aware of the nature of the information being received and to find for themselves the now-scattered bits of information they need to make valid decisions. The majority of the book is designed to equip the reader to make these distinctions.One can readily concede the characterization of the largely disintegrating (in both senses, as concerns quality and progression from a prior unity of professional objective) state of news media, while not accepting the authors' optimism about the ability of the population at large to be either motivated or equipped to take the necessary steps to obtain anything better. This is, after all, the same public that has fueled the growth of the journalism of affirmation embodied in Fox news and even, although less successfully, some few offerings on the opposite end of the political spectrum. The appetite and energy to individually acquire the skills upon which we used to expect from the traditional media seem in short supply. That should be of small surprise, given the critical comments about the negative impact of internet use and a general lack of intellectual depth that becomes more common (e.g., Maggie Jackson's Distracted, and Nicholas Carr's The Shallows).If it is true that a thriving democracy depends upon an educated and informed citizenry, and if it is also true that the plethora of information has decreased the amount of actual knowledge, and further that the burden of bridging the gap falls on each person where before we could rely on a skilled profession to do most of the heavy lifting, then perhaps we are in for a bleak future. Although the authors no doubt intend this solid work to offer encouraging instruction to the reader, the outcome is as likely to be a sobering pessimism arising from consumers' lack of critical curiosity.
hipdeep on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The most common criticism of late-20th and early 21st century journalism seems to be that it's not "real journalism" anymore. Kovach and Rosenstiel offer a model which considers that the thing we call "journalism" might not be a monolith. They find historical precedents for 4 different models - a "journalism of verification" which matches that "real journalism" category, a "journalism of assertion" which values immediacy over analysis, a "journalism of affirmation" which presents news in a way most likely to reinforce the beliefs of its audience, and an "interest-group journalism" in which special interests create content which looks like news to an uninformed viewer. They also recognize a "journalism of aggregation", in which organizations and individuals curate the "news feed" that is interesting to them.While the bulk of the book talks about the first 3 models, and how to recognize and analyze them, the real theme of the book might be the last category. Individuals have increasingly accepted more of the responsibility for collecting their own varied sources of news, and the broad journalism industry has responded in logical ways to stay in business. If we are all becoming "aggregators" in one sense or another, we need to understand the different kinds of journalism, and know how to evaluate them (as what they are, not what we wish they were).I didn't find the last section, on the future of news, as satisfying as the rest of the book. As good journalists, Kovach and Rosenstiel are measured in their language and conservative in their predictions. Unfortunately, that style which works so well for the rest of the book doesn't match the job of forecasting. (This is also the section where I felt too many sentences began or ended with "as we discuss in our other book...")This book should be taught in high school, as part of preparation for informed citizenship. (Sadly, it probably will mostly be taught in college journalism classes.)
steve.clason on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kovac and Rosenteil are journalists turned critics/educators, founders of The Committee of Concerned Journalists and authors of the textbook The Elements of Journalism. They carry a little weight.Their goal in this short (200 pages or so) book is to provide a way to evaluate the credibility of news reports. The main tool is a set of questions we are urged to ask ourselves about the news reports we encounter, the answers to which will determine to what extent we can trust the information.For the time-challenged, here are the questions: 1. What kind of content am I encountering? 2. Is the information complete; and if not, what is missing? 3. Who or what are the sources, and why should I believe them? 4. What evidence is presented, and how was it tested or vetted? 5. What might be an alternative explanation or understanding? 6. Am I learning what I need to?The authors cite Walton's Informal Logic at one point, and I was already comparing the two works. Both deliver important information as first-rate content. They are well-organized, carefully thought out, clearly written, concise and well-documented. But in both cases, I found myself wishing for some small gift -- a clever phrase, a telling metaphor -- but it never showed up. Superb clarity. No grace whatever.Don't get me wrong, this is a good book and you should get a copy and read it. You'll be a better person and better prepared to face the daily onslaught of news. But it is dry. Have a beverage nearby.
davidpwhelan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Blur is a dense look at how journalism is changing and how consumers can utilize journalistic skills to understand the news and information around them. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel discuss the challenges facing anyone who is trying to determine the truth of what they are reading online, the different types of journalism that you are likely to encounter, and how to identify not just the reliable sources but, on any given news-related Web site, the types of content that require more or less additional skepticism.Although this book is placed under the journalism subject heading, it is perfect for just about anyone who spends time reading news and opinion content online. Kovach and Rosenstiel write engagingly, and any jargon is clearly explained both in general terms but also by providing context through examples. This makes the text accessible and they further break down the process - using the clever term, tradecraft of verification - to enable any information consumer to create the habits necessary to look at online information with the appropriate level of skepticism.I read Blur during a week when the Pew Research Center for the People & Press report on news media was released (66% of Americans say news stories are often inaccurate, overall performance grows more negative) and the satirical news Web site, the Onion, was dealing with a Twitter post that had caused strong negative opinion because some people had been unable to identify it as fake news. The lessons to be learned from Blur make these sorts of stories more relevant and underscore the need for more people to be increasingly curious about their information sources and what those sources say.The authors are not saying that everyone can be a journalist, or that everyone is. Instead, they highlight techniques that journalists use and explain how the average reader can use the same methods to identify the fact and fiction of what they read online.The paperback edition has an afterword and has clearly been updated to incorporate examples from 2010, making the book feel very timely. But the underlying tips and guidance that the authors provide are timeless in an age where trust in the news and news organizations is lower and when nearly anyone can publish information online. Excellent read. I would especially recommend this for anyone who deals with information - lawyers and other professions, librarians, business leaders - and who may need these sorts of tools when they research outside their own content area.
ABVR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Everybody complains about the quality of the media, but nobody does anything about it . . . in part because few of us know what to do about it. Happily, thanks to Bill Kovach, Tom Rosenstiel, and Blur, I now know a whole lot more about what to do about it than I did before. Blur is the textbook for the "Print Journalism" segment of the "Media Literacy 101" course that we all should have had in school but virtually none of us did. It explains what good journalism is, how to recognize it, and (just as important) where journalists can go wrong . . . and how to recognize that. The biggest problem with journalism today, Kovach and Rosenstiel argue, isn't political bias as such, but laziness. Reporters transcribe official statements without investigating them, interviewers fail to do the necessary background research, and publications that should no better fail to corroborate statements with two independent sources before publishing them. The result is a sea of information . . . some of it based on solid, careful research, but much of it misleading or completely erroneous.Blur is, in the space of 200 pages, a (very) brief sketch of how we got here -- specifically of the ways in which information technology shapes the way we receive information -- a guide to how to deal with things as they are, a call for journalists to do better, and an examination of what the "next journalism," now emerging, might look like. Along the way it touches on subjects such as why (and how) people get news, and what good journalism looks like -- the latter illustrated with examples that are enough to make me want to change careers and become a reporter (not because they make it look easy -- far from it-- but because they make it look like an extraordinary challenge, in which the rewards come from making the world a better place. Blur is, in short, an extremely rich and wide-ranging book. That it's never confusing or dull (though it is serious) is a testament to how skillful the authors are at their trade.The majority of readers will see the chapters on how to be an informed consumer of news as the heart of this book, and its most valuable feature. They'd be right, but the last 30 pages of the book -- two chapters on the "next journalism" -- also deserve notice. Its analysis of one potential road that the fusion of print journalism and the internet could take is lucid, innovative, and surprisingly compelling. There's a great deal of writing out there about the fact that jouralism is changing radically . . . not so much about where those changes might lead. Here's one very plausible-sounding possibility, embedded in one very thoughtful book. Highly recommended.
NewsieQ on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I hold BS and MA degrees in journalism, but it's been so long since I worked for or with newspapers, I thought I needed a refresher course. Wow ... Blur fills the bill.In fact, I think every citizen needs to read this book to learn how to hack through the crap news that's out there. This book is not a diatribe about the awfulness of journalism today or a lament that newspapers are dying. It's a very practical and easy-to-read guide to figure out what news sources and reporters to believe. It made me see the reasons for my dissatisfaction with the Nightly News on PBS and its endless parade of talking heads who seem to be unable to answer a direct question -- and aren't pressed to do so. It doesn't make the situation better, but at least I have a name for that type of journalism. The chapter on what journalists/newspapers need to do to survive in the future is a revelation. I checked out Blur from my public library, so I started taking notes as I read it. I soon decided this book is a KEEPER and that I needed my own copy (hardcover @ $26.00). I can't remember a recent read that influenced my thinking the way Blur has. If you are a consumer of news, you need to buy this book.
thebookpile on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a librarian, I find my profession facing many similar challenges to those faced by traditional journalists. People today are less inclined to get their information through trusted intermediaries that vet and edit content for their consumption. There are both positives and negatives to this but as former information middle-men, librarians and journalists are both in positions in which they have to both justify the value work they do and think about changes to that work to make it more relevant to consumers again.Blur is a great little book that lays out these challenges by trying to help individual consumers to parse the news for themselves. By providing a sort of toolkit to digest the increasing amounts of information with which we are bombarded daily, the authors make a case for journalists more as teachers and assistants to an information-savvy public and less as the gatekeepers with total control over the framing of news stories.This is a great little book that I'll be referring to often as I try to consider how my own profession must adapt to the same challenges.
RolfDobelli More than 1 year ago
With so much information available on the Internet, more news consumers are helping themselves to exactly the current events information they want, instead of letting the media determine what they see and hear. Average citizens can become better judges of the quality of the news reports they receive by practicing certain techniques that professional journalists use. These methods require the disciplined exercise of judgment, curiosity and skepticism. This illuminating book provides useful steps for identifying reliable journalists and news organizations, for instance, by evaluating their sources of information. Media veterans Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel illustrate many of their points with references to leading journalists and their reporting techniques. getAbstract recommends their instructive book to busy professionals seeking effective ways to stay informed.
LindaShoemaker More than 1 year ago
The brand new book "BLUR -- How to Know What's True in the Age of Information Overload" is the perfect gift for anyone who cares about the news. It's a fascinating review of the new kinds of content we're all faced with in today's blurry mashup of news, ads and commentary. Well-respected journalists Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel tell us how to be active skeptics. BLUR makes the case that journalistic skills are more important than ever and that News Literacy should be taught more widely. Despite my training as a journalist and an attorney, I found the critical thinking skills in "BLUR" have made me a smarter and more proactive media consumer.