19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2010
Blur is more than a road map for people to attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff in the amber waves of information that surround and overwhelm us. The authors take us on a wild ride through space and time to decipher the ways in which we ingest the information we need to make decisions that could effect our daily lives and that of our planet. They tell us how we've evolved to this point of cyberoverload, how we've trampled the gatekeepers who once kept us honest, how we've popularized the media to the point of no return, what all of that means for the future of democracy, and what we can do about it. It is not a pretty picture, but it's compelling and thought-provoking. If only this book were required reading for everyone over twelve, we might see more light at the end of the tunnel.
But the crowning achievement of Blur is that the authors have presented such a complex yet cohesive portrait of where we've been, where we are, and where we're going without committing the mortal sin of nonfiction: boring the reader. With a generous use of anecdotal material and case studies, they bring their topics to life in a way that makes this more than an important book, it's a damn good read.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2010
Solid reporting and outstanding analysis. At its core, that's what this book is about.
The news media is changing at warp speed. Lots of people notice that but Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel dig a lot deeper and offer greater insight and understanding than anyone else. Kovach and Rosenstiel look at the history of the changing media with six essential questions readers/viewers should ask about any content they read, see or hear. In their last chapter, the authors outline how journalism needs to change in the 21st century to provide consumers what they need. There is no book out there like it. Its groundbreaking and essential.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
With so much information available on the Internet, more news consumers are helping themselves to exactly the current events information they want, instead of letting the media determine what they see and hear. Average citizens can become better judges of the quality of the news reports they receive by practicing certain techniques that professional journalists use. These methods require the disciplined exercise of judgment, curiosity and skepticism. This illuminating book provides useful steps for identifying reliable journalists and news organizations, for instance, by evaluating their sources of information. Media veterans Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel illustrate many of their points with references to leading journalists and their reporting techniques. getAbstract recommends their instructive book to busy professionals seeking effective ways to stay informed.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 24, 2011
We are each going to need to learn to be our own editors, gatekeepers, and aggregators.
Although, we're likely to be able to find a lot of help.
And first, we should be asking ourselves: Do we even care about reality anymore? Of
course we do, right? Maybe. But, we seem to listen to and enjoy all sorts of myths and
fantasies. A flagrant example is the up-coming royal wedding of Prince William and Kate
Middleton in Britain. So, perhaps the first step I want to take while trying to follow
the advice in this book is to decide, when faced with any given story or news account, is
whether, with respect to this one, things like reality, truth, accuracy, etc matter to me.
There are actually two sides to this book, both valuable: (1) On the consumer side, this
is a book about how we can become better and smarter users of the news. It's about what
each of us should to in the way of fact-checking, evaluating, verifying, and understanding
the news we read and hear. (2) On the producer side, it's about what reporters and
newspapers (for example), should be doing so as to produce the news and the stories that
As for the producers, there is a section about what new types of workers we will need in
the news production pipeline. These include (1) authenticator (fact checking and
evaluating sources), (2) sense maker (explain the story, raise it above a mere assortment
of facts, fit it into a wider context), (3) investigator (determine what information is
needed, what is significant, find that information and write it up), (4) witness bearer
(being there to watch and listen reminds news-makers of their responsibilities to the
public), (5) empowerer (help the news consumer to verify, understand, and use the news),
(6) smart aggregator (help us news consumers to find what we want and what is important to
us; also filter it a bit), (7) forum organizer (help us discuss the news with others who
are also interested; monitor and moderate that discussion), (8) role model (help us become
Classifications of content -- Kovach and Rosenstiel seem to place different classes of
content on a continuum with importance of verification, accuracy, authentication, etc on
one end of the scale and emphasis on ideological fit and on pleasing a select audience is
on the other end. So, for example, traditional newspaper reporting *should* be at the
accuracy and verification end of the scale, while partisan political messages and
newsletters for special interest groups would be at the opposite end.
This book suggests that we distinguish journalism from communication (e.g. blogs,
aggregators, Web forums, etc). For Kovach the difference seems to be that communication
merely passes along information with no attempt to classify the kind of information, no
attempt to determine the authentication or expertise or reliability or authority of the
source, no attempt at fact checking or verification of truth, and no analysis or attempt
to add to our deeper understanding of the message or its context. In contrast, again, for
Kovach, journalism attempts to do at least some and perhaps all of these.
One caution on the advice given in this book -- No matter how good the instruction on
classifying and checking and evaluating the news we get, doing so is still going to
require effort and hard work. You're advised to face that up-front.
Commentary and analysis -- We also need the news *explained* to us. We need it to make
sense and we need it to fit into a larger picture. For ourselves, we need to explain it
to ourselves and to be able to explain it to others. If I can't, then it likes does not
make sense to me and is likely not to make sense to someone else, either.
Critical thinking -- Sure it's a buzzword. You can look at this book as a lesson in how
to do that critical thinking, especially with respect to the news and other media. Some
of that advice and those instructions on how to do critical thinking are a bit abstract,
but much of it is quite practical, too. There is plenty of practical information on how
to evaluate and make sense of the news and information we get from the both traditional
and the new Internet-base sources.
A good deal of that practical advice is a variety of suggestions on how to ask the right
questions. The question we should be asking, among others are: (1) What kind of content
is it? (2) Is it complete? (3) Who and what are the sources? Are they reliable and
trustworthy? (4) What evidence is provided for the claims made? (5) Are there alternative
explanations for these claims? (6) Am I learning what I need to know? (7) Is the author
giving me any assistance to help me check the quality of this information or to learn
Several of the later chapters of the book give rather detailed instructions, illustrated
with examples, on how to evaluate and verify a news story, how to determine what kind of
content it is, how to evaluate evidence and sources, etc. It's a worthwhile class in how
to read the news or other articles where truth and accuracy are important.
In summary, our world is becoming more complex and, in response we are becoming more
highly educated in an attempt to deal with that complexity. But, if we are going to be
able to use our intelligence and that education to deal with the information that the news
and what we read and hear, then we need to listen to and follow the guidance that this
book gives us.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2011
Blur is a dense look at how journalism is changing and how consumers can utilize journalistic skills to understand the news and information around them. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel discuss the challenges facing anyone who is trying to determine the truth of what they are reading online, the different types of journalism that you are likely to encounter, and how to identify not just the reliable sources but, on any given news-related Web site, the types of content that require more or less additional skepticism.
Although this book is placed under the journalism subject heading, it is perfect for just about anyone who spends time reading news and opinion content online. Kovach and Rosenstiel write engagingly, and any jargon is clearly explained both in general terms but also by providing context through examples. This makes the text accessible and they further break down the process - using the clever term, tradecraft of verification - to enable any information consumer to create the habits necessary to look at online information with the appropriate level of skepticism.
I read Blur during a week when the Pew Research Center for the People & Press report on news media was released (66% of Americans say news stories are often inaccurate, overall performance grows more negative) and the satirical news Web site, the Onion, was dealing with a Twitter post that had caused strong negative opinion because some people had been unable to identify it as fake news. The lessons to be learned from Blur make these sorts of stories more relevant and underscore the need for more people to be increasingly curious about their information sources and what those sources say.
The authors are not saying that everyone can be a journalist, or that everyone is. Instead, they highlight techniques that journalists use and explain how the average reader can use the same methods to identify the fact and fiction of what they read online.
The paperback edition has an afterword and has clearly been updated to incorporate examples from 2010, making the book feel very timely. But the underlying tips and guidance that the authors provide are timeless in an age where trust in the news and news organizations is lower and when nearly anyone can publish information online.
Excellent read. I would especially recommend this for anyone who deals with information - lawyers and other professions, librarians, business leaders - and who may need these sorts of tools when they research outside their own content area.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The first 2/3 of this book on the 6 principles of analyzing media content was pretty good. It was intellectually rigorous and interesting. But the latter part of the book was pretty boring. The first part of the book is worth reading. The latter part you might as well skip.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2010
In a world of fast-moving information and a fast changing media landscape, Blur is essential reading for people who are trying to make sense of what is happening in the new information and media environment. The authors are two leading journalists who became among the leading thinkers about media. Their previous books have broken new ground and set new standards, and now they take a critical and instructive look at today's world and help us make sense of what is real and important. A first rate and important book. Highest marks.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2011
I found Blur to be an exceptional primer on how to separate fact from fiction in the digital age. Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel have done it again! (they previously co-wrote the classic "Elements of Journalism") They make a thoughtful case for why we need more "journalism of verification" -- as well as more news literacy education. This insightful book articulates very well the values we promote on our nonprofit social news site, NewsTrust.net. We offer a similar check-list for evaluating information quality, the difference between different types of journalism, the importance of civic literacy and separating fact from fiction. As a result, we have sent dozens of copies of Blur to our board members, staff, funders and partners, to help share these values with a broader community. Highly recommended. Enjoy ...
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2012
Anyone who reads, listens to or watches any aspect of the news today should take a look at the reality presented by Kovach and Rosenstiel in his book. Plenty of real life examples and a clear, and penetrating, explanation of how information and images can be manipulated, how assertion can be passed off as news, and how the rise of opinion journalism is threatening our ability as a society to make important decisions.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2011
Blur has one serious error that should be corrected. The authors state that writing was developed about 5,000 years ago, but that speech was developed a mere 6,000 years ago! The date for writing seems accurate enough -- but good grief, the date for speech is waaaay off! All of Upper Paleolithic culture -- organized towns and cities, domestication of animals and crops, migrations to the new world through the arctic, magnificent cave paintings and drawings, sophisticated toolmaking, burials and (presumed) associated religions, shipbuilding, stone structures, cooking, pottery -- all this would have come into being across three continents without benefit of speech? I doubt it, and so does current scientific thought. Although there is no way of nailing a precise date, indications are that human speech debuted somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 years ago, following the physical evolution of anatomical structures that allowed thoughts to be enunciated as speech. (Apes never developed these physical capabilities, but, surprisingly, some have the capability for rudimentary speech through hand signals, which we've taught them in just a few years.) The speech emergent date given by the authors would mean all the achievements of pre-writing humans had to have been accomplished by grunts, snarls and hand signals -- imagine trying to organize a large city or an animal husbandry project with no spoken or written communications! This of course does not undermine the authors' comprehensive and thoughtful study of present day journalism, but is a bit of a glaring error.