Serendipity is the sweetest

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



Round the horn with — hopefully — an interesting thought or two.

‘The Filter Bubble’

Eli Pariser is an interesting character. He’s a pioneering online organizer and is the author of “The Filter Bubble.”

Here’s the premise of his issue:

When the Internet began, it was full of promise and enlightenment and looked to be the avenue to a purer democracy.

So has that been the case? Not so much. And here’s why, according to Pariser.

As big players like Google and Facebook get more sophisticated, they have automatic filters that feed you information that they think you want to see.

So let’s say you’re a conservative but you’re open-minded and you want to see — on occasion — what those liberals are talking about and linking to.

Well if your tendency is to click on mostly conservative stuff and you Google search for something, you have better odds of getting something with a conservative lean.

Essentially, the search has edited out the other view based on your tendencies. The end result? Rather than the Internet’s being good for an open democracy, it ends up not giving you the full picture.

Some folks, of course, will argue that that’s what newspaper editors have been doing all along. But most readers realize there’s no upside for us to do that. Our goal is to bring you as much as we can on both sides of any issue.

o o o

This filter bubble concept sort of dovetails with the buffet analogy I often use when it comes to the news you find in The Columbian or on our website. Our goal is to bring you a diversity of news, so that if you don’t like one thing you should be able to go down to the end of the buffet table and find something you do like.

Equally important — and often left unsaid in my buffet analogy — is that sometimes it’s good for us to read something that challenges us, something we disagree strongly with. Frankly, this is the way we grow. Always hearing what we like to hear doesn’t allow growth.

There’s also a sense of serendipity in any good newspaper, something that will surprise you that you didn’t suspect or didn’t know.

So completely at random, here are some serendipitous questions:

• How much did Washington’s GDP grow in the past decade?

• What is the GDP?

• Was Washington’s GDP percentage growth larger or smaller than the national average?

• What were the two states in the country whose GDP actually went down over the past 10 years?

For the answers to these questions, go to my column on our website and look in the comments section.

Print First

Those really paying attention noticed we have switched from a Print Extra feature to a Print First feature.

For some time now we’ve had a Print Extra. If you saw that label in The Columbian, you were reading a story that appeared only in our print edition. It couldn’t be found on our website.

The feature created some angst with our Web users. The intent was to do something special for our print readers. We were already doing plenty of special stuff for our Web users, such as providing additional photos and documents, blogs and the ability to comment on our stories and in our forums.

The Print First feature still allows our print readers to see the story first. But in a couple of days, we’ll also post the article on the Web.

Hope you like the change. We do.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or

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