Monday, November 18, 2019

One Of These Things is Not Like The Others

In case the Google News headlines are a little difficult to read at whatever size you can see them, here they are:
  • Ukrainians 'came to understand what was required' to get a meeting with Trump, military assistance, State Dept. aide told Congress
  • What would it mean if Trump lied to Mueller?
  • Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces reversal of Obama-era stance on Israeli settlements
  • House is investigating whether Trump lied to Mueller, its general counsel told a federal appeals court
  • Press Watch: Why was Trump rushed to the hospital? Count on the media to swallow official lies
  • Patrick Frazee guilty on all counts, sentenced to life in prison
Patrick who? Turns out that he's a Colorado rancher convicted of killing his fiancée. On the one hand, I can completely understand wanting a break from the media circus that seems to have become The Donald Trump Channel: All Trump, all the time. But this case of domestic murder seems to be completely out of left field, and of limited interest. Here in Washington State, Kelsey Berreth isn't exactly a household name. Looking at the "latest" headlines in Google news, at least the ones they showed me, does reveal something of a similar pattern, though; a bunch of headlines mainly dealing with President Trump, the impeachment hearings or this or that aspect of federal policy with the random local crime story thrown in. The big difference is that the long list of headlines has a number of international stories, like the latest from Bolivia and Hong Kong that the shortlist lacks.

I'll admit that I hadn't paid much attention to Google News prior to this, but when I checked I noticed the lack of a "Crime" section. For me, this is a good thing. Crime stories tend to increase people's perceptions of the amount of criminal activity that's going on around them. Given this, I'm a bit dubious about the decision to simply sprinkle random crime stories into the more general headline feed, especially when they're primarily local interest. A couple has been fatally shot in their Buffalo Grove apartment complex? Not all that interesting to me, considering that I haven't lived in Chicagoland for the past 20+ years. I'm not sure how that fits into the parade of foreign policy and impeachment stories that dominate the list.

Given how long Google/Alphabet have been at this, it seems unlikely that this is just some random bug or design quirk of the newsfeed algorithm. Somewhere along the line, someone decided that a shooting at an Oklahoma Walmart should appear in the same list as a story about President Trump's health and the continuing unrest in Hong Kong. I'm curious as to their thinking.

No comments: