opinion | Knowledge bubbles work against us

I work for The New York Times. The people who read the paper and the people who work here know a lot about a lot of things, but there’s also a lot that we don’t know. What have you learned from your audience that you didn’t know much about before?

It’s been profound. I used to be a columnist in a newspaper. A reporter for that. And most of my newspaper days were before social media. So you really had no relationship with the public. In the early years you may have received a letter. In later years, you may have gotten an email. When you got an angry phone call, you really didn’t know what people were thinking and what people really believed in.

But on a radio show, yes.

I will always be the caller’s advocate. I don’t want to sound like I’m running a Walmart, but the customer is always right. And the customers in this case are usually people calling. That doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with them. But 20 years ago I’d say, “You’re crazy, you’re an idiot.” I toned that down.

And Covid has changed me in a way I didn’t think was possible. I softened a little on the edges, believing that many people are suffering. Many people experience things that have nothing to do with what we are talking about. And that makes me a little more empathetic to them.

But isn’t your audience also in a knowledge bubble? And they may not want to hear that the state of Ohio is good or that Notre Dame might deserve a spot in the College Football Playoff. How do you break them out of their own bubble?

Tell the truth. I proposed several years ago that the state of Ohio should go through Georgia to the CFP, and I received a lot of criticism. You can’t let your audience dictate or stop you from speaking honestly and objectively.

How have you and the show changed over the years?

As the host of a show that is heard on a national network – radio and television – I feel like I have to be open-minded. I need to be able to say, whether it hurts me or not, that the state of Ohio is really good, whether Notre Dame deserves to be in the playoffs, or Michigan.

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