Friday, September 09, 2005

Better Late Than Never?

Katrina has, if not killed estate tax repeal efforts, dealt them a serious body blow. Now that estate tax repeal is off the immediate news radar, Floyd Norris chief economic reporter for the NYT finally, FINALLY, had a column on the subject, How to Assure the Very Rich Stay That Way.

The column contains no information that is new to those who have followed the issue via the blogosphere for the last several months. Why did it take the Times chief economic reporter so long to examine the topic? Had it not been for Katrina, after all, the Senate would already have taken the key votes on the question.

To an increasing extent, there is a stratified gradient of the amount and quality of news and information Americans receive.

At the lowest level, there are those who get no information other than via television or commercial radio. It is this mass market that is most susceptible to the baloney dished out by the Faux News and the Rush Limbaughs and Bill O'Reillys

At the next level are the local newspapers. Due to market forces, these institutions have been greatly diminished over the last generation. (Don't tell that to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, however. The work of the paper and its reporters in response to Katrina have been nothing less than inspirational.) In any event, fewer people now receive their information via their local papers than was the case say 25 years ago.

On the next rung on the ladder are the national newspapers, the NYT, WaPo, the WJS, the LAT and, to a somewhat different degree, NPR.

Finally, we have the constant stream of information via the blogs.

None of the steps in the ladder completely displace the steps preceeding it. In particular, weblogs are still too hit or miss to replace the national papers and, in smaller cities, don't even touch the issues addressed by the local papers. Also, weblogs actually rely on the papers for much of their source material, digesting that material and aggregating it in interesting and novel ways.

However, there is a growing knowlege gap between those who get their information solely from the first or the second rungs of the ladder and those who obtain informaton from the third and fourth rungs. And, as the Norris column reveals, there is a growing information gap between those who come to rest on the third rung and those who move up to the fourth.

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