Filter My News You Muthas

It’s February 2008. I’ve had access to the WWW for 13 years. Yet I can still not get a news feed filtered to any reasonable approximation of my tastes.

I want very little news: only the important stuff. I think almost all conventional news are a complete waste of time. I want no business, no sports, no reports on individual crimes or house fires, and for Dawkins’ sake, nothing about TV shows or pop singers.

Until recently, I took the front-page feed of Dagens Nyheter, my country’s biggest newspaper. This is the material they deem maximally important, but it’s full of sports and reports on individual crimes. So I chucked out that feed and instead subscribed to four sub-feeds: International, Politics, Science and Stockholm. (Stockholm, though home to only about a million people, is the closest Scandinavia gets to a big city.)

I just chucked out the Stockholm feed after only a few days. It’s almost exclusively reports of individual crimes and such ephemera. But the immediate reason that I got rid of it was the following item:

Dagmammas höna eldades upp. En djurplågare går lös på Värmdö.

Chicken Belonging to Day-Care Lady Was Set On Fire. Animal abuser at large in Värmdö municipality.

Dear daily news journalists. Why are you doing this? We all know that this is absolute crap. You’re wasting your time and that of your readers. Why not just quit?

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  1. #1 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    February 29, 2008
  2. #2 paddy
    February 29, 2008

    I still don’t understand why 80% of the world considers sports as “news”. Team A meets team B – one of them wins. News! How so, exactly? I couldn’t care less if “Foppa” gets smallpox, falls in a blender and then marries all of Brittney Spears children, one after another. I-don’t-care.

    This, however, is much more news-worthy:

  3. #3 paddy
    February 29, 2008
  4. #4 Lennart Nilsson
    February 29, 2008

    Newsitems such as the one about the hen on fire is all about reassuring people that in fact nothing dramatic happens in their corner of the world. Last weeks top storie in Dagens Nyheter’s main competitor Svenska Dagbladet was in fact that a cache for storing fire wood (vedbod) had burnt down in Vrmd (first firewood and then a hen, I guess nest week it will be an ant…).

  5. #5 PsyberDave
    February 29, 2008

    I know what you mean. But don’t you see irony in that your counterpart a thousand years hence will be beside himself or herself with joy at having dug up a newspaper with a story about a flaming chicken? Or does it make you want to leave an explanation for archaeologists of the future? “To whom it may concern: You may have found a newspaper about a chicken on fire. Please do not conclude that we were stupid people. We were very smart, actually. Well, some of us were. OK, a few of us were. Well did you see the space station?”

  6. #6 Tor
    February 29, 2008

    Don’t blame the journalists; blame the readers. There is no market in Sweden for a proper newspaper.

  7. #7 Felicia Gilljam
    February 29, 2008

    This is why I don’t follow any news outlet at all. I get all my news from friends who read news and usually me when they see something important, and from blogs who read news and report on stuff I find interesting. Some people are horrified when they hear this, as if it’s an obligation to read newspapers or watch TV at least once a day.

  8. #8 Lars L
    March 1, 2008

    Felicia: that is clever. A friend news feed!? I will get rid of all my silly news feed! “Hey, guys whats up out in the big bad world?”

  9. #9 tor
    March 1, 2008

    If you’re looking for a Swedish news site that focusses primarily on news, maybe the closest thing would be Don’t know if they offer feeds, but going to the site yourself to check it out isn’t too difficult.

  10. #10 The Worst of Perth
    March 1, 2008

    Our newspaper The West Australian is frequently claimed to be the worst in the country and sometimes even the world.
    I make the claim myself.

  11. #11 The Worst of Perth
    March 1, 2008

    By the way Martin, I don’t know if it gained something in the translation, but speaking as a comedian,
    “Chicken Belonging to Day-Care Lady Was Set On Fire.” is absolute gold. I’d be happy to find those words in a news feed any day.

  12. #12 Martin R
    March 1, 2008

    Thanks Worst, it’s actually a pretty straight translation. A very literal translation would be “Day-mother’s chicken [was] fired up”.

  13. #13 The Worst of Perth
    March 1, 2008

    If I did that on stage, the whole audience would definitely laugh. This is the sort of thing I love about English. Because the rules of structure and order are so loose in English, the accent can fall slightly on the Day care lady in the sentence making it subtly comical, as if – not only is she a day care lady, but her chicken was also burnt. Sorry, this is stuff I have to think about.

  14. #14 Tobias
    March 1, 2008

    Give it a rest. News are in the eye of the beholder. I don’t expect BBC or CNN or whowhatever to know whether I consider their news to be “Me-Worthy”. I rather expect them to deliver a great big unadulterated (more or less, at least) dollop of info wherefrom I may dissect the cernels of wisdom (yes, really) I consider to be relevant for me. More is better than less, even if it entails reading about arsonist chickens once in a while.

  15. #15 Martin R
    March 2, 2008

    “Give it a rest”? In this day and age, they should offer better tools to automate the process of picking those kernels out.

  16. #16 Martin R
    March 2, 2008

    Worst, I think they mentioned the day-care lady thing to imply in few words that not only had a chicken been burned alive, it was a chicken that played a daily role in the lives of children, who would now be sad and bewildered at the evil in the world.

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