Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Information Haves and Have Nots

I've been out of the blog world for quite a bit. Keeping my media diet of Daily Show, Washington Post podcasts, and a cursory glance at the Star Tribune's website, the daily paper of my current hometown Minneapolis. The American empire appears to be standing up nicely.

But the newspaper industry isn't feeling quite as robust. I, and my fellow Kiplinger Fellows, met with the publisher of the Columbus Dispatch today. The paper just bought out 21 reporters, and it appears in the next couple months, the paper will trim its physical size by a couple inches.

Senator John Glenn attended our discussion: in his early 80's, he's concerned about what happens to a democracy when the newspapers are cutting reporters, ergo content.

I do share those concerns. But I also believe that for time imemoriam we've lived in societies of information haves, and information have nots. Lawyers are the classic examples of those who profit the most from information. Accountants I think another. So why should there continue to be a gap in information when most people have access to the Internet, either at home or surfing on the computer at the local library?

Well, not all pigs are equal. This is the difference between my parents' stock fund portfolio and Donald Trump's. His accountants know more than theirs. They have better information. The same holds true for everyday folk. Some people are savvier about obtaining information than others. I think consumerism is a good example. I can think of a few friends who are fanatic about finding good deals on clothes. I wouldn't say I'm a spendthrift, but I'm not going to quibble over a $10 or $15 difference on a pair of pants. I can afford it. My friends can too, but they quibble because they --and here's the key-- know they can get it for cheaper. They're aware of the difference, and they know it's out there, and once you know something is out there, it changes how you make your decisions.

That might not be the best example. There are much more profound ones, and in the case of journalism, hopefully, showing those differences in candidates, or elected officials, will have a profound impact on how you interact within this democracy.

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