Lesson 3: Know Your Neighborhood

As we learned in lesson 2, there is a daily battle to control information. It is waged by information peddlers to try to get your attention, push a point of view, sell something, promote their self interest, or sell ads around media that entertains you. It’s common for them to try to disguise it as news. This lesson establishes another habit of smart news consumers:

  • Always know what information neighborhood you are in.

In this lesson we'll discuss the characteristics of all of these "information neighborhoods", their characteristics, and present a few occassions where the lines blur between them. 

Using a Taxonomy of Information Neighborhoods, we will characterize information in a systematic way that highlights the distinguishing characteristics of news, promotion, propaganda, and raw information, all of which are subsets of Information.

It’s easy to get lost with so much information out there. Worse, there are people whose job it is to mislead you, for political gain or for business reasons. You've no doubt heard the idea that knowledge is power and ignorance is weakness. This is a corollary to that. If you don’t know what kind of information neighborhood you’re in, you could get ripped off. The point of this lesson is to Know Your Neighborhood.

To give you a jump start, here's a simplified Taxonomy Chart of Information Neighborhoods:


You'll see that there are distinct goals and outcomes for each neighborhood, which are outlined at the top. While each neighborhood has distinct differences, there are times where the lines between each can get a little blurry. 

For instance, news (labeled as "journalism" above) is pretty well spelled out -- but you might wonder about entertainment news, or news about celebrities. Or even think about the clip you saw in lesson 1 from the Daily Show. Was that news? How do you tell?

We use this definition to set up one of our KEY lessons. 

  • News is information of some public interest that is shared and is subject to a journalistic process of VERIFICATION, and for which an INDEPENDENT individual or organization is directly ACCOUNTABLE. 



Lesson 3 Contents: