The Net Reigns Supreme (For Better or Worse)

Alter: All Umbrage All the Time | Newsweek Voices – Jonathan Alter |

After a decade of waiting for the first “Internet election,” its finally here, and were adrift from all the old-media moorings. “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one,” the great critic A. J. Liebling wrote more than half a century ago. Today, of course, were all press lords, or can be. But the “crowd-sourcing” of news cuts both ways. Like democracy itself, it can cleanse, correct and ennoble. Or it can coarsen, spread lies and degrade the national conversation.

Everything about the Web is double-edged. Its hard to believe, but YouTube wasnt even around in 2004. Now it or other streamed video is a godsend for anyone who wants to follow politics closely. But YouTube is also a pixilated guillotine for any public figures inclined to show a little humanity that is, fallibility or a penchant for inconvenient truth-telling when they step out of their house. Colin Powell told me recently that hes even had to put up with picture takers in the mens room.

Alter makes a number of good points in this mini-rant/whine about the interwebs and the reality of a democratized media.  As one actually educated in how the media works and how much works it takes to make much of it look effortless on the consumer end, he makes some good points.

Read more to see my take on it.

But the reality we live in is one where I am using the same software to publish a “blog” as CNN does.

And they work at about the same speed.  The point here should be a reminder that it matters what is behind what you read on the screen.  He brings up on Page 2 a bit about how people believe random pseudo-anonymous-friends-forward emails about Obama being a secret-Muslim more than they believe people who actually travel to Indonesia and visit the elementary school where he was allegedly (by Fox) trained as the Al-Manchurian Candidate.

I’m starting to think that media studies should be a part of elementary, or maybe middle-school education.  To see this many adults around that don’t understand how the system works (and how it doesn’t) is frightening.  The number of people that think a “media” exists and is out to get them is, sadly, growing and feeding into the information morass of tomorrow.

Finding solid, trustable information is always going to be a priority for those that don’t want to be retarded.  Which is why Alter has a paying job, and the vast, vast, vast majority of bloggers don’t.

Newspapers just adjusted too slowly. They are getting there now, slowly but surely.  The future information landscape looks like 3 or 4 national papers and the rest being local, with very few cities more than one paper.  But with the web, we all have more access to information than we could ever want, and so the future is as bright, or as dark, as we make it.

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