Monday, March 7, 2011

New kid on the block: Al Jazeera

Getting information these days is easy.  Getting good information is quite a bit tougher.

Watching Fox News and CNN, listening to the BBC and NPR, all offers a wide range of information and opinions, but much of it conflicts with other sources.  Who to believe?

This morning we read that Secretary of State Clinton has used Al Jazeera as an example of “real news.”   Not having been exposed to much of Al Jazeera, that’s hard to know.  Their image in this country has largely been that of purveying Muslim causes, much like Fox is viewed with by disdain by many liberals, and NPR is vilified by many conservatives.  Al Jazeera is making a big push to get into more cable television homes across the country.  It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out.

But you need not wander into the realm of international news to find a disconnect of facts.

We’ve been following events in Wisconsin, where a pointed conflict continues to evolve between unionized public workers and state government.  Folks I hear on Fox News talk about how public employees are compensated far better than their counterparts in the private sector.  Not true, claims the head of the AFL-CIO, who says public workers lag behind in salaries when compared to private sector workers – that they deserve a good benefits package to make up for that.

The task of trying to gather good information – at least through the media – seems fruitless.  Most of us soon get burned out on this approach, trying to sort out one radical claim from another.

That’s why it’s rather refreshing to find what appears to be more objective information shared from a surprising source:  Bill Gates.

Yesterday, we heard Gates, who’s long been an ardent advocate for education and health care issues, weigh in on public employees, state pension plans, and how they impact the delivery of quality education.

We’ve been tracking public employee retirement funds in several states – mostly reviewing what they say about themselves.  Reading their newsletters would cause one to well up with confidence that, despite hard economic times, “their” retirement fund is in good shape.  Not to worry.

Nonetheless, public pension funds are – and should be – a big concern for the whole country.

Take a few moments to explore the The Gates Notes to learn a bit more about this issue and others.  It offers seemingly unfettered data, unaccompanied by the hostile rhetoric that seems in vogue over on the news channels.

I probably won’t give up splashing around the “main stream media” for information, but I suspect I’ll be spending increased time “on-line” trying to harvest more accurate information.  That may not be easy either, but I find The Gates Notes to be a breath of fresh air.

And I don’t think I’ll miss the shouting and name-calling that permeates commercial broadcasting. 

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