Thursday, September 23, 2004

Media Finds Itself Behind the Power Curve 

Jeff Jarvis takes Tina Brown to task for her anti-blogger snarking. Her comments, though, just cemented an opinion that I've been forming in the wake of the CBS disgrace. The biggest problem Tina and Dan have in understanding the force of blogs is summed up by their chief complaints: a lack of checks and double-checks, perceptions of rumor-mongering and an easy means to spread misinformation and deception. On the one hand I agree 100% that the Internet and blogs, at their worst, can represent all of these tendencies, but the dirty little secret, recently made less secret, is that this is true of any medium for human interaction and communication of information, including the Mainstream Media. Long before the Internet existed, Orson Wells succeeded in (unintentionally) misleading thousands of people using that previously well-respected medium of radio. While similar events might happen today, the total deceived would probably be much less due to the sophistication and education of the audience. The Internet is no different.

When I first got into e-mail I remember embarrassedly being taken in by the "Bad Guy in the Back Seat Warning" and sending it out to everyone I worked with, thinking I was doing them a favor. Like all endeavors, I learned to be a bit more aware and savvy and have helped several friends to likewise smell out obviously false items (teaching my Mom that we weren't going to be subjected to an e-mail tax was like pulling teeth). The thing is, to the Tina Browns and Dan Rathers and so many others in their ivory towers of journalism, the Internet is still nothing except porno, hoaxes, Nigerian scams, jokesters and urban legends. They either lack the sophistication themselves to separate the chaff from the wheat or else, in their elitist ways, don't think Joe Public is up to the task. Given stories like Cathy Seipp's, though, where a journalist buddy falls for the "Draft Scare" without even considering a two-minute Google to find if the anonymous e-mail had any basis, I tend to think it is the former. After all, if journalists can be so easily fooled by the Internet, it's no wonder they don't trust it. But, instead of blaming the snake-oil salesmen, perhaps they should worry more about what has happened to their own inquisitiveness and questioning nature, instincts that were once the stock and trade of their profession. If they spent just a little effort they might find that while it is easy to print lies and deceptions on the Internet, it is as equally impossible to completely supress the truth and facts.

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