Saturday, June 16, 2007

Data isn't knowledge

We spend a lot of time in our newsrooms talking about how to "add value" to the information we process. Rather than relying on the old "eat your broccoli" theory of why people ought to read us, we're working to make it worth their while to do so.

NYT columnist David Carr offers a splendid example of why the value-added model matters in "The Media Equation" this week.

As a type-two diabetic, Carr had more than reportorial interest in news about the possible coronary implications of the drug Avandia. He read the Times' initial story about a study suggesting dangers, and then took to the internet to research things for himself.

Needless to say, this proved somewhat less than satisfactory. Here's the payoff paragraph:

... after some time spent researching the whole issue, I decided to just back away from the mouse. Data is not knowledge, and information is not insight; consumers still have to make their own judgments about the agendas that are at work.

Carr also notes that, "As it turns out, the Web’s penchant for polarized discourse is not just something that flares up over the war in Iraq or presidential elections." We've talked before in this blog about how a culture of partisanship and spin creates opportunity for honest brokers, and this is a perfect example.

Reporters can't advise patients whether Avandia increases their risk of heart attack, but we do have the skills and capacity to filter, sort, document and verify information that will help them along that long, twisted journey through the internet. If we do that right, we'll be in business for a long, long time.

1 comment: