Friday, February 08, 2008

Don't Believe Everything You Read - or, 10 Ways to Enjoy the News

We’d save a lot time and money if we all weren’t so gullible when it comes to the news. As my grandfather, a third-generation homestead rancher in Idaho, without formal education, used to say, “Don’t believe everything you read.”

For example, to read the news, especially the Raleigh paper, you would have believed Durham had fewer days of water remaining compared to Raleigh and had reacted much more slowly. In truth, Durham does have, and has always had during the drought, more water on hand than Raleigh and moved to restrictions much more quickly.

Durham has about 4½ months’ reserve and Raleigh 100 days and change. Doesn’t mean we’re better, by the way; it means we have different water systems. Durham owns its own lakes. The two communities also rely on totally different watersheds, and their underlying geology is very different.

I find that usually the facts are in news stories but sometimes blurred by hyperbole, editorializing, bias, controversy, front loading etc.

Here are 10 things I use to enjoy the news but not lose sleep or get agitated:
  • Not everything bad happens in Durham first, then Raleigh.
  • Not everything that happens in one community is important to the other. We’re family, not attached at the hip.
  • Everything brilliant is not Raleigh, nor is everything stupid, Durham.
  • Not everything is “zero-sum.”
  • Communities are rarely predatory; that is a private sector, free market thing.
  • Businesses may be dog-eat-dog, but communities are just rivals, and that doesn’t mean they don’t cooperate.
  • Just 'cause you don’t discern action from news reports doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.
  • People who appear to be in conflict may just be answering two different questions.
  • Durham gets twice the news coverage: it doesn’t have twice the news. Density equals weight, not importance. Dilute what you read at least in half.
  • To be “world class” a place doesn’t need to be cosmopolitan. It needs to be “real.”

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