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Editor's Weekly: Drowning in information, thirsty for knowledge

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Dear Beaconites --

One paradox of the digital age is that we are simultaneously drowning in information and thirsty for knowledge. When anybody can publish anything and reach everyone, then all of us are inundated all the time with a lot of nothing. Finding what's trustworthy and meaningful is a constant challenge.

Back in the day, newspapers boasted about how much news they provided. "All the News That's Fit to Print," The New York Times still proclaims on its front page. Of course, it's not true and never was. There isn't room in the paper, nor would you have time in any format for "all the news."

At the Beacon, we're increasingly mindful that your time and attention are precious. Before asking for either, we ask some questions of ourselves. Is this work really worth your interest today? Will it have lasting value? In addition to reporting what happened, can we also explain why and what's next? Is there a better way to communicate this information?

These questions guide us in deciding what to cover and how. And they help make the Beacon a guide you can trust in finding interesting work of others. The Beacon's homepage includes a constantly updated column called News Watch that links to important news developments others are covering. On Facebook, Twitter and in a Twitter feed on the homepage, Beacon staff highlight developments in other ways.

This week, we experimented with a new way to act as your guide. Called Popcorn, this weekly feature will share kernels we find interesting from our own reading and viewing. Given the events of the week, the first Popcorn included a baseball find from Features and Commentary Editor Donna Korando. While following the Cardinals to the bitter end, Donna has kept up with the wave of criticism of Cards fans that crested this post-season.

"First, how unlike St. Louis to anoint ourselves as 'the best,'" Donna observed. "That accolade had to come from baseball commentators. Second, having gone to other ballparks, I know Cardinals fans are knowledgeable and not abusive. The latter quality alone could make St. Louis attractive to players.

"An article that hit home does not make the case that St. Louis fans are the best. It does say 'It’s Just Different Here.' Check out Howard Megdal on mlb.com."

Editors have always filtered and shared what they think is most significant and interesting. Now, your friends -- actual and virtual -- are doing the same thing. Done badly, these applications of news judgment confuse and distort our perceptions of reality. Done well, they help us find meaning amidst chaos.

We hope the Beacon continues to earn your trust with solid judgment about news that matters for St. Louis.



Margaret Wolf Freivogel is the editor of St. Louis Public Radio. She was the founding editor of the St. Louis Beacon, a nonprofit news organization, from 2008 to 2013. A St. Louis native, Margie previously worked for 34 years at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a reporter, Washington correspondent and assistant managing editor. She has received numerous awards for reporting as well as a lifetime achievement award from the St. Louis Press Club and the Missouri Medal of Honor from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She is a past board member of the Investigative News Network and a past president of Journalism and Women Symposium. Margie graduated from Kirkwood High School and Stanford University. She is married to William H. Freivogel. They have four grown children and seven grandchildren. Margie enjoys rowing and is a fan of chamber music.