I think this may be the best thing you have written - at least for me. I have found your thinking, first on Twitter, then through here, to be invaluable in helping me to stop and reframe my own assumptions and understanding of many things. In this article you truly encapsulate why that is the case: honesty, curiosity, willingness to admit mistakes, all in the pursuit of knowing something worthwhile. I do hope that framework becomes more popular.

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Great piece!

Reminds me of the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, observed by physicist Murray Gell-Mann and summarized by Michael Crichton:

‘...the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. ... You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. ...

‘In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate .... You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

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1. I think the holiday super spreader thing never panned out because it was reported by and from tge perspective of professional class people who can maintain virtually nil public interaction and are used to travelling for holidays. (Median American takes one flight a year pre-COVID. That is, roughly half of Americans don't fly in a year; the professional class is blind to how non-representative they are.) To working class people—the overwhelming majority—holidays arguably less potential to be super spreader than the work they do every week.

2. I'm sympathetic to getting rid of gatekeepers, but the stuff on Substack is mostly essentially punditry—or to use a timely example, the kind of stuff Seth Abramson might call meta-journalism. There's a huge market for it; might be the most lucrative part of news organizations. But it depends on actual journalism as a raw material to inform, and I'm not convinced Substackers (who get an audience though a niche or by being pundits) are going to start filing FOIA requests and reporting important but unsexy stuff. I worry that this will manage to be even worse than before, as it has been since 20 years ago when the news industry discovered that the reporting they thought so important was less important than classifieds and sports to (now former) subscribers.

So I'm thinking seriously about supporting journalism proper. I'm not into much of the stuff NYT does, but Pro Publica has written some of the best articles about pandemic policy missteps, and maybe that's something I should support. Not really sure.

3. As a Cade Metz stan, I should note Scott Alexander ultimately concluded the article about him was probably going to be benign and Cade apparently didn't have the juice to get exceptions other reporters had re: pseudonymity. But your point that the NYT organization seemed untrustworthy (for good reason) stands.

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