Eternal truths

Eternal truths

When I had my first permanent job in the lat 1980s, a senior colleague helped me navigate through the world of Lexis Nexis searches. For even in the pre-Internet era it was possible to experience information overload. Rather than search through the dozens or hundreds of publications that were starting to become available online, he suggested checking the Wall St. Journal first. If they had an article on the topic, it was likely to be better than anything else. And it kept search results to a few pages rather than hundreds.

It’s still true today. Even though the Journal charges a subscription fee for online content, I still use it as a source for many of my blog posts. A new example confirms that belief. When I posted recently about dog slaughter in China, I rapped Yahoo! News (original source: AP) for shallow reporting. Commenters pointed out that the cultural context was missing, as well. Sure enough, the Wall Street Journal has covered the same topic, while providing a far richer portrait:

Ms. Peng fumes at what happened in Mouding and wonders why the government doesn’t use the money it earns from pet registration to provide free rabies vaccines.”Every time my Qiqi gets shots at the hospital, I can’t look at his pathetic eyes,” she says, “so I could imagine the horror suffered by the dogs in Mouding.This is outrageous!” Chinese royalty once prized dogs, particularly the tiny Pekingese. But following the triumph of communism in 1949, dogs suffered the same fate as royalty. Ideologues frowned on dogs, cats and other pets as frivolous symbols of class and of capitalist decadence.

Not only do they mention the rabies vaccine but they describe the cultural bias against dogs. (Thanks to Mickey for pointing this out.)

My only problem with the piece is that it came a few days after the Yahoo/AP story, thus undermining one of my observations about the New York Times: “A great paper in case you missed the previous day’s Wall Street Journal.”

August 8, 2006

One thought on “Eternal truths”

  1. I wrote both a thesis and a dissertation successfully. I successfully used various lit search tools and navigated thousands of psychological and sociological journal articles. Lexis Nexis leaves me starry eyed.

    I consider myself fairly intelligent and pretty computer savvy, but trying to get a not overly narrow search to succeed … head, meet brick wall.

    Your colleague’s suggestion is a good one and your observation is also good. Inevitably, the other news sources tag a day or two behind the WSJ and the articles are mostly rehashing what the journal already said and said in a much better (and better verified) fashion.

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