Today’s media environment is a Choose Your Own Adventure book, and not in a fun way.

When I was a kid, I tried to like Choose Your Own Adventure Books, primarily because my brother had a bunch of them. I hated them. Every time I made a decision, I would stick a finger between the pages of the other choice so that I could go back and re-choose if I failed (which I almost alway did). Unfortunately, humans only have ten fingers; so that didn’t work very well.

I felt the same frustrated this morning when I trying to read through news articles about a big (yuge, 500 page) report came out this week from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. It looks at the economic impact of immigration in the US (Why it isn’t economists that are putting out that kind of report I don’t know yet, but that’s not the point here). Unfortunately, you’re going to have to read the whole doorstop of a book to come to your own conclusions about it, because news media isn’t going to help. In fact, they seem to be working hard to make it more confusing.

I first read about the report on the conservative website National Review, which had a negative spin under a neutral headline. Then I went to Wall Street Journal, which seems OK with immigration. Then I went to Google News, and here’s the kicker: The narratives about this report on immigration are so bifurcated that Google News couldn’t figure out they were the same story:

  • Story 1, centered around CATO’s “Four Policy Implications of National Academies Report on Immigration”
  • Story 2, centered around Washington Times’s “Mass immigration costs govt. $296 billion a year: National Academy of Sciences”

I now have more tabs open about this one report than I have fingers, but that doesn’t make me happy about the Choose Your Own Adventure version of truth-finding that the current state of news makes us go through. But as The Economist pointed out recently, in the US we’ve entered a new, post-truth political world, so I guess all we’re left with is picking the study that’s right for us.

Thanks to GoodReads for the photo. But not for all the hours I wasted in 1992.

What am I missing? What am I wrong about? What should I read next?

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