10.20.2004



Why I blog, and why I hold out hope for the future


Alan Nelson of The Command Post posted Full Text Of My Speech To AP Managing Editors, a wonderfully insightful piece that really says why media girl came into existence. In his speech, he says, in part:

Because information is increasingly transparent, and because many blog readers are mavens passionate about the content, any given blog post doesn’t have just one fact-checker … it has thousands … or in our case, tens of thousands.

Rathergate is a perfect example of this. To recount the history, shortly after 60 minutes ran its story about the Guard memos, and reader of the Free Republic weblog posted a comment doubting their authenticity. Other mavens then started to post about that question on their blogs, and some of the more active bloggers started contacting typographers, others were recreating the memos using Microsoft Word … and all the time they were linking to each other, developing information in real time … remember the law of the fast.

Before long, one blogger even traced the fax number on the memos to the Texas Kinko’s from whence it came … and learned from the manager that Bill Burkett … the ultimate source … had an account.

The Rather story illustrates all of these laws … the information flowed and CBS couldn’t control it … it happened very quickly, faster than CBS could keep up … and connected mavens drove the process as it developed, and ultimately into the mainstream.

But most of all, it illustrates the Law of the Many … that when a marketplace of tens of thousands of people considers a piece of information, the truth inevitably will surface with greater speed and efficiency than when only a few people consider that information … just as surely as an internet-driven a global market for diamond rings or interest rates drives price down and quality up.


It makes me feel good. Yet I still feel some inkling of misgivings about the future. Nearly a year ago, Bill Moyers expressed great hope and praise for the internet. But he also warned about corporate efforts to buy out and control access to the net:

We have to fight to keep the gates to the Internet open to all. The web has enabled many new voices in our democracy – and globally – to be heard: advocacy groups, artists, individuals, non-profit organizations. Just about anyone can speak online, and often with an impact greater than in the days when orators had to climb on soap box in a park. The media industry lobbyists point to the Internet and say it’s why concerns about media concentration are ill founded in an environment where anyone can speak and where there are literally hundreds of competing channels. What those lobbyists for big media don’t tell you is that the traffic patterns of the online world are beginning to resemble those of television and radio. In one study, for example, AOL Time Warner (as it was then known) accounted for nearly a third of all user time spent online. And two others companies – Yahoo and Microsoft – bring that figure to fully 50%. As for the growing number of channels available on today’s cable systems, most are owned by a small handful of companies. Of the ninety-one major networks that appear on most cable systems, 79 are part of such multiple network groups such as Time Warner, Viacom, Liberty Media, NBC, and Disney. In order to program a channel on cable today, you must either be owned by or affiliated with one of the giants. If we’re not vigilant the wide-open spaces of the Internet could be transformed into a system in which a handful of companies use their control over high-speed access to ensure they remain at the top of the digital heap in the broadband era at the expense of the democratic potential of this amazing technology. So we must fight to make sure the Internet remains open to all as the present-day analogue of that many-tongued world of small newspapers so admired by de Tocqueville. [emphasis added]

The pressures between the government and the citizens that purportedly own it are increasing. And we're right here in the thick of it, in the net, in the world of ideas, information and interaction.

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