Former Washington Post wiz-kid and healthcare expert Ezra Klein was on Charlie Rose yesterday along with John Bankoff, to tout their new project, Vox.com, a “new way” of getting information and news on the internet.
Bankoff seems well-named since he is the CEO and the money-guy. I became acquainted with Ezra Klein, like many people, from the Rachel Maddow Show. I have always admired his knowledge. On yesterday’s show, I thought he was a bit more pedantic than he needed to be — it wasn’t really germane to correct Rose on whether it’s “Ukraine” or “the Ukraine” — but still interesting. I suspect that for someone like Klein, what looks like pedantry to me is probably the iron grip of self-control, as he stops himself short of correcting the less-brilliant people around him seven times, then eight times, then nine times… but when he hears “the Ukraine” he simply can’t stop himself.
Anyway, the show was not about Ukraine, but about Vox, the internet media site Klein left the Post to helm, as least editorially.
Klein says that the information media currently doesn’t do a good job of covering long, deep, complex policy stories, and policy is his great love. His example was the Affordable Health Care Act. I took issue with a few things he said. Klein says that “we [the media] started covering health care too soon,” as if by the time it was controversial all the of the “educational articles” had already been written, published/posted/whatever and weren’t easily available. He might be thinking of himself and his periodical, and Klein was one of the few who was talking in the early months about content, but I watched the ACA stuff pretty closely, and I do not agree that in general the media provided good explanations “too early.” If you wanted in depth content, you went to PBS, NPR or, in my case, the Kaiser Family Foundation. No, mainstream media did not give me “Healthcare 101” and then move on.
Klein is right though, that once the yelling and hair-pulling started, even with the good sources, it wasn’t easy to go back and find one place where you could find answers to questions like, “what’s a risk pool,” and “what is the personal enrollment thing,” or, “what’s Medicare and what’s it got to do with all this?” Vox offers that; a repository of information about a topic that is pretty easily accessible.
Klein also pointed out that people want to know about stuff and sometimes they really do want to start with the basics. Conventional news outlets resist trying to provide basic information for fear, I guess, that they’ll offend their readers. Klein and Bankoff both say that Vox prides itself on starting at the very beginning of the question (example, “What is Ukraine?”) and providing clear but concise basic information to build on.
I went and looked around on the site. They had an article on Bitcoin, which intrigues me and baffles me, so I read that. It was good; nicely written, clear without being condescending. Click here for the video.
Today when I went back, though, I couldn’t figure out how to access the archive when that article might be stored. I haven’t dug in too thoroughly; it might be that you have to sign up in order to have access with the archives, which would only make sense. Generally, though, I enjoyed the “index card” metaphor that breaks the data into bite-sized pieces in a linear, thoughtful way.
So, right now at least, I’m liking Vox.