Arnold Kling  

Journalism, Blogging, and Truth

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Gary Becker on the Minimum Wag... Are Husbands Really Like Potat...

David Warsh writes,


Classified advertising, especially help-wanted and houses for sale, near-monopolies for daily newspapers for more than a century, have been especially hard-hit. Consolidation in the once-exotic world of trade magazines has been the rule. Significant revenues from other categories may eventually return to newspapers, magazines and broadcast entities, when new media segmentation is better understood. But never again will things be the same.

...It is hard to read more than a few economic blogs on a regular basis, at least if you have a day job. To my inner ear, they are too often the written counterpart of radio talk shows...In this abundant world, the role of publishers and editors is more crucial than ever, in contriving scarcity for the benefit of readers, whose time is short. That’s why, when all is shaken out, newspapers and books will remain our most important sources of provisional truth.


Over four years ago, I predicted that newspapers would survive as philanthropic ventures. I expect to see profit-oriented investors turning sour on the newspaper business, but wealthy individuals will be interested in serving as patrons. However, even when it comes to patronage, web-based publications may prove to be more cost-effective.

As to "sources of provisional truth," I recommend the group blog Overcoming Bias. In one post that explains the purpose of the blog, Robin Hanson writes,


We have many mental attitudes, and a "belief" is an attitude that estimates a truth. These truths can include facts about the world around us and our place in it, moral truths, and truths about our or others' values. The error of a belief estimate is how much it deviates from its truth.

If our minds had been built only as error-reduction machines, we would try as best we could to reduce a weighted average of our belief errors, given resource constraints like the information, time, and money available to us. There would be little point in having a group like ours devoted to reducing error; that would be everyone's task all the time.

...I suggest that "bias" refer to the sort of belief errors that might be especially and easily avoidable by sacrificing other belief functions, such as having us other people like or respect us.



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