We are inundated with news coming at us at breakneck speed, via websites, alerts, notifications, Twitter, and more. Never before has information been able to move so quickly, and with that comes a higher probability of error.
We’ve seen it repeatedly: in an effort to be first, some news organizations have ended up being wrong. One most recent example involved the rumored removal of the bust of Martin Luther King from the Oval Office; Zeke Miller of TIME magazine Tweeted that the bust had been taken away when he was at the Oval Office on January 20 to observe one of Donald Trump’s first official acts as President. Unfortunately for Miller, the bust was still there, it was just obscured. That prompted this groveling by TIME:
This is ultimately a minor, though symbolic, mistake. The fact is newsrooms used to be a place where information was filtered and verified prior to being published or broadcast. Now, there is no time for such banalities; TV stations often cover key events live while reporters can Tweet or Facebook Live events as they witness them, with the result being raw, often partial or incomplete information reaching the consumer. It becomes difficult for the public to contextualize what is happening and make a judgment on what is important, and what isn’t (the job journalists used to do).
I recently came across one organization trying to solve this problem, and provide a more complete look at the news after it’s happened. It’s a relatively new magazine called Delayed Gratification, published by an organization called Slow Journalism. Out of curiosity I picked up issue #25, and this is inside the front cover:
It’s hard to argue their premise; the question is whether the magazine lives up to its promise of a “slower, smarter approach” (and whether people can be bothered reading about events months after they’ve taken place).
Delayed Gratification is published quarterly and covers the three months prior to its publication, so issue #25 covers the months of October, November and December. The magazine is broken down by dates, and literally walks the reader through the key global events in those three months. It makes great use of infographics and photos, and provides little tidbits of information on key stories.
It is a strange feeling reading about news that – let’s be honest – feels ancient. Anyone remember Ken Bone? The bespectacled red sweater-wearer who asked a question at a Presidential debate about energy policy, and shot to stardom? He’s proof that stars fade just as quickly.
How soon we forget….
This issue also has longer-form pieces on climate change, how robots are taking over, Leonard Cohen, Trump’s election victory, India’s decision to abolish 500 and 1,000 rupee notes, Gambia’s revolution, and much more. The magazine gives the reader a feeling of non-urgency: this stuff has already happened, and we are looking back and reviewing the full picture after the dust has settled. There is something simple, and almost innocent, about that in a day of rapid-fire information.
I’m not sure if Delayed Gratification will succeed long-term, but I hope it does. Twitter and “knee-jerk” punditry will live on and thrive, so a more sober and measured look at past events is a welcome and necessary counterbalance.