Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Another tabloid way to read online news

While listening to Q with Jian Ghomeshi on KOPB, I was stunned to learn that the website for The Daily Mail out of the U.K. is the most visited news website in the English language.

Of course, The Daily Mail is heavy on tabloid news stories, which attract the most clicks.

Not to be outdone, the Swiss/British philosopher Alain de Botton started a counter news website called The Philosophers' Mail.

It, too, runs tabloid news, but with a philosophical twist. Or, to figure out why the most important stories of our time are no match for the most trivial stories.

In a piece titled, "Important news: Anne Hathaway takes her chocolate labrador Esmerelda for a walk," The Philosophers' Mail ruminates on why such stories on a normal news website like The Daily Mail would attract more eyeballs than the top story, say, the uprising in Ukraine.

The reasons are intriguing: 

 "We are liable to look down on an activity which, if it were presented to us in a museum, we might take very seriously. And yet what we're doing here - looking at a pleasant person taking a walk - is not fundamentally different from the pleasures available in an art gallery. If we went on a special trip to Giverny to see Monet's paintings we'd hardly think we were doing something a bit low-brow or pointless."

And, The Philosophers' Daily, amazingly, doesn't allow comments on stories.

Now, I admit, I love looking at the comments people make, especially on the websites for the Wall Street Journal and Fox News.

The comments on Fox News get so toxic and so racist so quickly that the moderators have to cut all comments off.

On the WSJ website, the comments sound more erudite, but they, too, quickly degenerate into racist and ignorant rants. It's more galling because the stock market has rebounded to unprecedented highs under President Obama.

But, The Philosophers' Daily has good reasons to reject comments because they can reveal that in the anonymity of the internet, commenters can reveal that they are "jealous, furious, vindictive, heartless, obsessive, unforgiving -- in a word, a little short of insane."

On Q, de Botton had a simple reason to forgo comments after their stories by saying "it's very hard to love your fellow man or woman after you've read them."

So true. 

He also says they really don't advance enlightenment. 

On occasion, though, I've read some amazing comments that expand and deepen the original story.

Of course, such comments are few and far between.

The Philosophers' Mail may do well, but, like most things on the internet, it may get lost in the flotsam and jetsam of a web surfer's wake.

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