Clay Johnson’s The Information Diet (published by O’Reilly) is one of those books that I want everyone to read. It is very short. So it won’t take long. But it does get you thinking (and hopefully talking) about some very important points that many of us have not yet thought about.
In order for our country and culture to remain stable we must be well informed. Johnson does a good job of quickly outlining how and why we are becoming less informed these days. To be honest, half of the stuff he mentions – you probably already know, but you just haven’t thought about the implications. The “diet” metaphor isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Mainly because it’s not so much ‘counting calories’ but thinking about the quality of what you are consuming and where it comes from (hint: local is better in food and information.)
Things like ‘what’s the difference in getting your news via Facebook rather than straight from a new source’ or ‘just how much do CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, Washington Post, NY Times alter a story/headline to make it “more compelling”‘ and so on. This is one of those books that you will read and then will find yourself bringing it up in conversations for the next two weeks. It helps that the author is so up front with his political leanings so that we know where things are coming from. It allows the reader to follow him honestly and listen to the causes of much of what is changing in the media landscape.
The book not only does a good job of quickly showing how our news sources alter and filter information for us, but it also begins to explain why. Which starts us down the path of trying to fix the problems. The last bit of the book does contain some concrete “how to”‘ information and a pretty strong call to action, with a companion website.
My only complaint is that this wake up call/manifesto is as short as it is. The call to action and tool set offered at the end would have been a little more compelling if backed by some deeper discussion. But then the book would have been longer… and thus, not as approachable. This is one I wish everyone would take an afternoon to read. It’s a solid 4 out of 5 for me.
(In the spirit of full disclosure I did receive this book as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program.)