Is crowdsourced journalism making you dumber?

We get information faster than ever these days, but to what end?

Twitter and blogs are great for up-to-the-minute details on what’s happening in the world. However, we’ve started to rely on this ever present bite-sized news so heavily we forget that there isn’t often fact-checking involved. If journalism is the “first draft of history” then crowdsourced journalism as seen through Twitter, blogging and other social networks is the rough outline.

Unfortunately, most people don’t read past the rough outline. What’s circulating through popular blogs is taken as fact. Sure this can be alarmingly inaccurate at times but I find something else more troublesome. If the average person replaces their morning newspaper with their five favourite blogs they aren’t getting informed about the world around them. Case in point, I spend more of my time on sites like The Sartorialist and Hype Machine than I do on The Globe and Mail, The New York Times or The Huffington Post and I consider myself to be of above-average intelligence.

A picture of a high profile politician at an inopportune moment is far more interesting than anything else that politician does all day. This noise over news means even people with an interest in politics (or other current events) tend to not be informed on issues. When everything imaginable is available on the Internet it is easy to ignore the smart stuff.

What’s the answer to this? There are sites dedicated to what I call “collaborative editorials” Great minds meet online to further critical thought on hot topics. Site like The Mark News, Crooked Timber and Open Democracy enlist elite contributors to write and exchange ideas within their area of expertise. They lead to fascinating discussions on topics and research that the average person would not otherwise see.

While these sites are good platforms for bright minds and keen learners, most newspapers are written at a grade 8 reading level (grade 5 if you’re The Sun) they’re not going to reach the mainstream anytime soon. If crowdsourced journalism is making average person dumber and the smart people smarter are we headed towards an intellectual class war? Is the Internet dooming us to a Morlock/Eloy paradigm? Nah.

*for the record, I’m pro-crowdsourcing 🙂