Almost News

Almost a year to the day after publication, I finally read Michael Lewis' explanation of some of the reasons behind the American economic collapse. Frustrated as I am with news fatigue, I still can't get enough of feature length stories and explanations. Sure, they're formulaic (start with the general premise, narrow down to one very specific case which encapsulates the core of the issue, then generalize again), but I prefer them to the breathlessness of news stories. So there must be some kind of middle ground. Here's what seems to happen to me in particular:

    1. news breaks, I spend about an hour or so in the span of a couple of days getting as much information as possibe

    2. I tune out, keeping vaguely aware of the issue

    3. I lose almost all interest in the issue

    4. [this is where my middle ground is needed]

    5. years later I read about more in depth about the event (the attacks of September 11th are a good example)

For step #4, it seems as if about a year after is a good amount of time for me to grasp what happened 365 days previous. The reasons for that are:

    • emotional and temporal distance from the event

    • investigators (journalistic and otherwise, be they investigators who write reports which serve as primary documents) get to work

    • publication and digestion of reports on the subject grinds them into a fine pulp

    • overview journalists such as Michael Lewis and Malcolm Gladwell write their 5,000 word pieces on the subject

On a meta level, Conor Friedersdorf has collected the best of "almost news" from 2009 and 2008. The articles catalogued illustrate what I mean by the concept.