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Keeping up with technology: mainstream media does a pretty good job

In my last column I discussed some of the many podcasts available that can help keep you up-to-date on technology-related news. But of course, there are other ways to keep informed. A note of caution though; a lot of the news is not original. A tech story that originates on one website will often get repeated by other sites verbatim. If the original item had errors, those errors get repeated, gaining credibility through repetition. Also, a pack mentality can emerge with tech journalists covering the same news stories (product releases, privacy glitches) and companies (Google, Amazon, Apple, etc.). Worse, they often quote each other's stories, creating a closed-world self-referential feel.

This trend is reinforced by mainstream television and newspaper reporters, who use the tech blogs and news sites for inspiration. The result: coverage of news such as the recent launch of the iPad or of Facebook’s latest privacy woes gets inordinate attention in the media, while less sexy news are sometimes ignored.

However, there are some good sources for balanced, informative news about technology. Here are the ones I follow regularly:

Newspapers

Despite the tendency of some internet enthusiasts to sneer at the so-called “mainstream media”, some of the best coverage of technology is provided by newspapers. Many newspapers still take their role to provide thoughtful, balanced coverage seriously and provide the editorial budgets to do so. My own favourites are the Guardian and the New York Times, but other papers from around the world also produce original, reliable technology news and analysis. 

David Pogue and his colleagues at the New York Times not only report the latest news, they also do product reviews and write how-to articles on topics ranging from virus protection to file recovery to camcorders. You can also subscribe to a weekly roundup of the Times' Bits Blog.

The Guardian provides a British focus on the world of technology. Like the New York Times, the coverage is comprehensive and includes insightful analysis. There’s more emphasis on entertainment technologies such as video games and the writing is always lively.

Closer to home, both the Globe and Mail and the Vancouver Sun do a good job of covering the technology scene in Canada. The Sun’s Gillian Shaw's Digital Life blog is a great source for local tech news and analysis.

Magazines

Print-based periodicals such as the New Scientist and The Economist both regularly cover technology, again from a British perspective. Online American magazines like Slate and Salon also provide intermittent coverage. Slate tech columnist Farhad Manjoo’s articles are especially well-written and hype-free.

Tech News Sites

Many websites have sprung up devoted to tech news. Gizmodo, Engadget, CNET, Slashdot and the Register are all worth checking out. Be warned though, these sites tend to assume that you’re already well-immersed in the world of geekdom. For more specialized coverage, you can find sites devoted to Apple products (macworld.com, for example) or Windows (pcworld.com).

Aggregators

Then there are the sites that compile stories from other sources. Of these, probably the best known is Google News (news.google.ca). Google News organizes the latest news by topic (Canada, World, Business, Sports, Science and Technology, etc.). You can also sign up for email alerts based on certain keywords (for example, technology Vancouver) and you’ll receive daily summaries of all news articles Google has found that match your keywords through Google Alerts (www.google.com/alerts).

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