Real News

I'm really sick of reading the pseudo-news that fills newspapers and magazines. I read the news because I want to know what is happening in the world; I want the information I need to formulate an informed opinion about the state of the world. Newspapers fall far short -- today's paper (San Francisco Chronicle, 27 January 1997) has, on the front page, in order of conspicuousness:

Now, these are all worthy of reportage -- except for the Super Bowl, NHL, and red-light runners -- but look what I found inside:

Now, every one of these events is far more important than any of the events mentioned on the front page -- except, possibly, Sun Myung Moon. (Who apparently owns the Washington Times. I didn't know that!) And there's one other thing they all have in common: I'd never heard anything about any of them! And I read newspapers on a fairly regular basis.

Now, the Chronicle is certainly not the height of journalistic excellence. But I read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, too. And I still had heard nothing about any of these events!

I had another similar experience recently. I looked at the Bureau of the Census data on distribution of wealth over the last 28 or 29 years. What I saw completely surprised me.

Apparently, after 1982, the bottom 40% of the population became significantly richer - about 8.6% -- as measured in the Census's version of constant dollars. And, suddenly, from 1990 to 1992, it dropped precipitously, down to below its 1983 level! And, apparently, it has been rising since about 1993.

No news organization gave me an inkling of this. But it's certainly important information to know if you want to understand the economic reality in the US.

(I also found that the incomes of the richer parts of the population had been trending sharply upwards the whole time. This is probably even more important, because even despite the oscillations of the poor, they remained at about the same level.)

I am not getting the information I need when I read the papers and magazines. I am getting human-interest pap, hundred-yard-long floods blown up into 22 cm by 15 cm photographs, and two-column-inch reporting of things that are truly important. And there is no coverage of the things that matter most -- people's state of awareness and action about the world around them. You could read the New York Times for years before finding out about the comparative literacy rates in Viet Nam and Korea, or the new Mitsubishi plant in India, which represents a repudiation of Gandhi's philosophy.

I cannot make informed decisions about the world I live in without such information. I cannot live in such a fact-free environment and have an accurate picture of the world. I propose to change this.

Real News

Real News is intended to correct this situation. In Real News, I will report the important things -- the ones that have a large effect on the world -- while leaving inconsequential diversions like hockey-league records to newspapers like the Chronicle.

I expect that other people will also want this kind of information. I will distribute Real News without charge at first; later, I will charge for subscriptions, if I think enough people want to read it badly enough. This will enable me to spend more time on it.