Although Ezra Klein, one of the founders of Vox.com, considers himself something of a nihilist, he’s not that worried about polls that say large portions of the country still doesn’t understand the Affordable Care Act — a topic Vox and other news outlets have spent a lot of time and effort trying to explain.
“We talk a lot about left-right polarization in the media,” Klein said. “We talk a lot about the idea that people are cocooning in different kinds of information sources. … There’s another kind of polarization that we don’t talk about, which is interest/non-interest,” Klein said. “But it’s a very fundamental polarization. The difference between people who want to learn a lot about the news, who want to learn a lot about Obamacare, and people who don’t is profound.”
Sometimes, people just don’t want to know.
“It’s OK for people to not want to know everything about Obamacare,” he said. “American politics is not set up to require every citizen to spend their entire life reading the Affordable Care Act. We built a representative democracy, we have very sophisticated mechanisms for sorting information that people can use.”
The media’s role then is one of being the explainer of the news for those who are interested in hearing it.
“What we need to be doing in the media is making sure, one, that all the people who want to be informed can be informed,” he said. “And two, that being informed is not just straightforward and easy, but actually appealing and fun. I think we often get much too concerned with the idea that some people just don’t want to be reading political news. That’s OK.”
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“I think in the coming months, they’ll become a lot more useful even than they are today, but, that’s a slow process,” Klein said. “Figuring out how to do that. Figuring out how to make sure that it is there for the reader when they need it. That’s the stuff that’s the most exciting part of what we’re doing, but it’s also the one that doesn’t come as quickly.”
This week’s podcast is audio from a conversation between Ezra Klein and Yuri Victor, two of the founders of Vox.com, at the 2015 Society for News Design Workshop in Washington, D.C. Their discussion ranges from the ups and downs of launching a digital startup to Wikipedia, social media and the changing roles of journalists in the digital realm.