Some of the words we use to describe eating, like consume and a healthy, balanced diet are also appropriate when describing how and where we get our news and information.

While preparing for an upcoming website redesign a few years ago, I decided to try and harness the perspective and experiences of some of the young reporters and editors (all under the age of 30) working in our newsroom at the time. As an information omnivore, I was hoping to get some inspiration and maybe discover some innovative and interesting websites. Instead, I found out that none of the four employees — that I questioned in an informal gathering of information — visited websites to get their news. They all said that they got their news from social media feeds. I was surprised and a little disheartened, but accepted the information and moved forward with the redesign, figuring that our website audience was, in varying degrees, a combination of different demographics. The one request I had at the time, as a way of harnessing the exposure, was that when Press articles were shared on social media they would also be linked back to our website.

Personally, I’ve never liked the idea of an algorithm or anyone deciding the content and source of the news I should be consuming. In the intervening years since my impromptu newsroom questioning we have experienced contentious elections and a worldwide pandemic. There has also been some backlash and ethical questions aimed at the negative affects of social media, but it still continues to be a dominant force. Thanks to silicon valley insiders who were willing to speak out, fundamental functions of social media organizations, including Facebook, have been revealed to be based on algorithms designed to exploit addictive behavior, not provide useful information.

The old adage of “You are what you eat” can also be used as a metaphor for media consumption. In an article in the Brag, an online news site based in Sydney, Australia, Rys Hope provides some specific examples of the news diet metaphor including “Catchy headlines act as addictive sugars, confirmatory articles mirror comfort food, and opposing viewpoints are like the detoxifying kale smoothie that is so easy to push away.” Whether you’re referencing a news feed, a buffet or an ala carte menu, once you start thinking about the food and media metaphor, the logic can be applied in a variety of ways. I received “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” as a gift years ago, and I still periodically think about some of the findings in the book. From the journalistic point of view, I’ve always respected the way the author Michael Pollan approached the subject of the impact of our food choices with a sense of discovery, not just as a way to support an agenda or preconceived notions. The importance of finding out how our food is produced and where it comes from is a concept we can use practically on a daily basis and can also be applied to sources for news.

Some of my duties here at Press Publications include overseeing the flow of content and overall functioning of the website. When readers occasionally encounter problems on the site, I’m thankful that they care enough to let us know and help trouble shoot and I’m sincerely grateful that they’ve made the choice to be a subscriber. As the current subscriber campaign proceeds, please be patient. We’re still working on streamlining the process. Sometimes it can be confusing, but the first step to any interaction on the website is the creation of a user account. Just like the local farmers, restaurants and grocery stores in the area, the Press is here and accountable for the unique, local news articles and photos produced by our dedicated staff and you’re welcome to stop by anytime for some news “bytes.”

 

Paul Dols is photojournalist/website editor for Press Publications. He can be reached at 651-407-1238 or photos@presspubs.com.

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