Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Genealogy and Reading the News
For years we took a daily newspaper.

Even though we refused to have TV in our house while our children were growing up, we went through a period of time when we had cable TV.

I used to listen to the news radio station for many, many years, including many years of listening to National Public Radio.

So far in 2015, there have been over 50,000 wildfires in the United States that have burned over 9 million acres of land. See National Interagency Fire Center. Over a thousand homes have been destroyed and many people have died in the fires. Many of these fires continue to burn into October, 2015.

The persistent drought in the Western United States has contributed to the fire situation and has now been going on for years. See image above.

All of these statements are interrelated.

I now get 95% of more of my news from the Internet. I have an interesting observation (interesting to me anyway). Both the fires in the West and the drought are "big news." They will affect millions of people in ways unimaginable, but there is virtually nothing in the mainstream news about either the drought or the fires. Over a thousand homes are destroyed in fires and people killed and it doesn't make the news.

At the same time, the news in our area is filled with stories of killings, violence and crime. On the date of this blog, there is a huge storm over the East Coast with flooding and loss of life. In the Google News stream, the lead story is about people killed in an airstrike in Afghanistan. There is no mention of the floods and dangerous rainstorm in the U.S.

OK, as usual, you are asking yourself what this has to do with genealogy. There are two important things going on here. The way we obtain news about our world is rapidly changing due to technology. But at the same time, the news that gets through to the major news outlets focuses on very transient events. Droughts and fires are "old news" in the United States. Floods and disasters are no longer "interesting" to report. What is in the news involves what is politically correct to report.

The same thing has happened in genealogy. Very little of the "real news" or those things that will affect the most people and are truly important developments are no longer "interesting." The genealogical equivalent of the long-lasting drought in the Western United States and the huge wildfires is now ignored and we focus on the trivial and what is politically and socially acceptable.

What is the biggest genealogical news story of 2015? What genealogical event that has already happened in 2015 will affect the most people? What attention was paid to the biggest genealogical disaster of the year that affects thousands of people's ability to find their ancestors?

Can you answer these questions? Are you aware of genealogical database contents that are being removed from online collections? Are you aware of the closing of state library genealogy collections and the closure of two large genealogy centers?

I have been pointing out for some time now that there is a dramatic decrease in genealogical blog traffic. The most popular online bloggers keep writing but the background traffic of hundreds of other bloggers has disappeared to a whisper.

Here is my point. Over the years my use of the news media has changed dramatically. I gave away my last TV many years ago when I realized that over 50 cable stations were not providing anything I was interested in hearing or watching. I stopped listening to news radio, including National Public Radio, when it became a propaganda outlet and stopped carrying any news. I mentioned the drought and the fires because neither story was or has been featured in any of the major news outlets. Once a story has been "reported" it is dropped, even if the story is ongoing.

Genealogy as a topic is subject to exactly the same political and social forces as the rest of the media.

By the way, the big story today is that J.K. Rowling has revealed Harry Potter's lineage. See if you can find it.

For the time being, I will keep reading the obscure, the neglected and the impossible to find and trying to make some sense out of what is really going on around the genealogical community.

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