In the final weeks of 2022, Velocity of Content is looking back at the past twelve months of programs.

Too much information. If that’s driving you insane, then you should know there are ways to focus and filter for information success. Dr. Tracy Brower, a sociologist and author of two books exploring happiness, fulfillment, and work life, say we can all be more selective about the choices we make over how we consume information.

“How we’re feeling affects how we interpret what’s coming at us,” she explains. “Information can be relatively objective or relatively vanilla, but if we’re feeling at odds or anxious or upset, we can view that much more negatively than we would if we were feeling more optimistic and positive. So our own feelings absolutely shape our perceptions of our incoming information.”

Traditional journalism organizations and digital-native social media networks alike face a formidable challenge – more and more, people trust information less and less. Santiago Lyon is head of advocacy and education for the Adobe-led Content Authenticity Initiative, which offers consumers reliable information about the provenance of content they see and read.

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“I think we should be very careful to always check the source,” says Lyon, who as a photographer for Reuters and the Associated Press won multiple photojournalism awards for his coverage of conflicts around the world. “I think it behooves us to be discerning consumers of content. And I think that the technology that we are developing will help us do that.”

Verbal abuse, violent threats, and even physical attacks on medical staff and scientists reflect a tense relationship between science, media, politics, and the public, reports UK-based journalist Anita Makri. When that relationship turns toxic, she notes, public health messages and scientific evidence must battle to be heard.

“It’s what happens when people need answers and clarity that science isn’t yet ready to provide,” Makri tells me. “In the early stages of the pandemic, that mismatch left a real vacuum, and there’s plenty to fill it – speculation, beliefs, miracle treatments, politics, and opinions on social media.”

NewsGuard rates the credibility of news and information websites and tracks online misinformation for search engines, social media apps, and advertisers. In September, a NewsGuard investigation revealed that TikTok searches consistently feed false and misleading claims to users, most of whom are teens and young adults. Gordon Crovitz, a former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, started NewsGuard with Steve Brill, who founded The American Lawyer in 1979 and started Court-TV in 1989. Their work has led Crovitz to a disheartening conclusion about the prospects for ever entirely defeating misinformation.

“In the earlier era – even the Internet, but before social media – I think it was still possible for people to teach themselves how to become news-literate. I frankly no longer believe that. I think it’s become impossible,” Crovitz admitted. “The nature of these platforms, the algorithmic engines that promote falsehoods and send people down rabbit holes, the utter absence of disclosure about the nature of the sources on so many platforms – that really makes it hard for people to know what to believe or not to believe.”

Chalani Ranwala, a research communications specialist based in Colombo, Sri Lanka, suggests an antidote to cynicism and suspicions could be humor. In her contribution to the London School of Economics’ Impact Blog earlier this year, Ranwala proposed that repackaging information into humorous content creates an informal access point to audiences.

“Humor is a friendlier voice, and it’s not as intimidating as, let’s say, a research brief or a policy-related report. It gives researchers an access point to reach an audience at a level in which they are more comfortable and more willing to engage.”

When making a meal, we choose foods and flavors according to our appetites and our tastes. Whatever ends up on the menu, there are always fresh, wholesome ingredients from trusted sources. Our families and our guests expect as much – they rely on our judgment never to serve anything toxic or contaminated.

For all our information diets, the same care is advised – for our own good health, and for the good health of our communities.


Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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