High Points: Where do you get your info?
With apologies to the many talented writers in this town, I have always considered Tony Vagneur’s “Saddle Sore” to be the signature newspaper column in our community. Each week, the Aspen Hall of Famer (class of 2012) waxes poetic on things that matter to this town from the past, in the present, or looking to the future. It’s not just that he has a visionary perspective; it’s that he is also an outstanding writer, painting evocative pictures in print with his words each and every week.
But in his most recent column, “Our debt to the wild wolves,” he made a comment that gave me pause. In a sentence that implied that some people don’t know what they are talking about when it comes to the re-introduction of the wolves, he derided them by writing that they “seem to get most of their information from barstools or barbershops.”
With all due respect, I often get my information — my best information — in those very places. Barstools, barbershops, gondola cars, bus benches, the lines in the supermarkets, the post office … these are my go-to’s when I want to know what is really happening in my world. That’s where I can get face-to-face, tell-it-like-it-is info on the themes of the day from real people.
I get Tony’s point, and I actually have a bit of my tongue in cheek here, but the comment did get me to thinking about the places where we go to get our information.
We live in one of the most information-saturated small towns in entire country. How many places, even major cities, actually still have two seven-day-a-week newspapers? We have a public radio station that features 24/7 news and information programming and a second one in Carbondale that also offers up a plethora of local reporting. Then there are the gabbers on the right-wing side of the dial on KNFO. Some call that news. Some don’t.
And that’s just the hyper-local info. We have the Denver television stations and The Denver Post. And the Colorado Sun just keeps getting better. The next rung up are the national media outlets, the three networks, Fox News and CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. That enough information for you?
Think I’d forget social media? According to the Pew Research Center, 71% of people now get “at least some of their news input from social-media platforms.” Yes, Twitter, Facebook, and Tik Tok are sources for news and information for many of us. And wait until the AI (artificial intelligence) bots like Bard (Google) and Bing (Microsoft) reach the mainstream. From the sound of things, you’ll get not just information, but also snarky digital opinions. And the word is they can write a “High Points” pretty easily. I’d like to see a bot try to write a “Saddle Sore.”
Back in 1989, Richard Saul Wurman, a one-time board member of the International Design Conference in Aspen who went on to found the TED empire, wrote a book called “Information Anxiety,” which examined the uneasiness people feel daily when they’re overwhelmed with facts and data pretending to be useful information. It seems like such a quaint time.
Yeah, I appreciate where Tony is coming from. We, of course, need to be educated about the issues of the day before we go spouting our own opinions. But the most trusted sources of information that we have on given topics often are somewhat suspect themselves.
That’s why I prefer to get my dose of info while listening to the banter from the adjacent barstool or the arguments made while I sit in my barber chair or the snow report from the ‘dawg in the gondola. At least that way, I know exactly whom my information is coming from and what the context is. I can make a decision for myself, based on the people I am with, whether to accept or reject the info given.
I admit, I don’t know enough about the re-introduction of the wild wolves to have an educated opinion. But from reading Tony’s story, I am pretty sure that we have done ‘em wrong.
And that may be enough info for me.