Is Internet News Making Us Less Informed?

Not everybody would know who Maurice Jarre was, but to give you the heads up, he was a well-known French composer who died at the end of March. He was three-time Academy Award winner for film scoring, and the father of well-known French synth musician Jean Michel Jarre.

On his death bed Jarre was claimed to have allegedly said “One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head that only I can hear.” Poetic, nicely put, and a wonderful sound bite for the press.

Unfortunately, he never said it, Irish university student Shane Fitzgerald did when he put it in Jarre’s biography on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a very popular online encyclopedia that can be updated by visitors to the site. There are the odd checks and balances

Fitzgerald, rightly, was worried about how quickly information is spread around the globe with little or no fact checking, and that soon certain pieces of information before fact, even though they are fiction.

Just so everybody knows, I am not a trained journalist, and I’m not trying to act as some moral arbiter or am I tut-tutting journalists. There is every possibility that at some time in the future I could post something that needed a bit more research. Being an embracer of technology and the information age I certainly like the fact that with a few clicks of the cursor I can get the most up-to-date information available. But Fitzgerald’s little experiment proved that we are far too willing to take things at face value.

I am lucky in that I only have to look at a product and discover its merits (or lack thereof), and do not have to rely on Wikipedia or third-party opinions. However, most people in the communications industry – whether they be bona fide journalists or bloggers, or whatever – have to rely on research to get it right.

Has the information age almost become a contradiction in terms? Is there too much information that isn’t being vetted, or scrutinised? Not because people are lazy, but because there is no time. Who is responsible for this dilution of information? Well, we can all take a little responsibility for it. Impatient readers wanting the story now; editors and owners wanting to get the story up first; and journalists for not telling their bosses to hold on for a few minutes while they delve a little deeper.

What do you think? Has the Internet made us less informed?