I am reading Flat Earth News right now, a book in which Fleet Street journalist Nick Davies argues that much of what we read in our newspapers is simply copied unverified from the wire or from press releases. To go further, as per the sleeve notes Nick has:
found that the business of reporting the truth [journalism] has been slowly subverted by the mass production of ignorance
I guess we have all gotten used to questioning what we read in the papers, particularly here in the UK, but the book has been a reminder to me that we need to form our own views on everything, even (or maybe espescially) conventional wisdoms. The example Nick leads with is the millenium bug – a concept which started life in the media, developed a life of its own, caused many companies and governments to spend lots of money protecting themselves, but ultimately turned out to be a complete red herring. Governments in countries like Italy and Russia which spent next to nothing protecting against the bug faired no worse on the night than governments in countries like the UK where we spent considerable sums.
Where it matters it is always best to form an independent view. Moreover, if you have a contrary position, and you are right, that can be a great platform for a new business. Or for me, it can be a great reason to get behind an existing startup.
Why am I blogging this today?
Thomas Kohnstamm, co-author of a dozen Lonely Planet guides to Latin America and the Caribbean, has written his own book. In it he tells how the life of a travel writer is one of poor pay, dealing drugs to make ends meet, cribbing information from other sources and, in one case, failing to visit the country he was writing about.
I used to like those books.