Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Don't Break Your Arm Patting Yourself on the Back

Ironbear at Who Tends the Fire has some useful commentary on the role of Blogging in taking down big media:

I do hope that I'm not the only one that can hear the long knives on the whetstones between the lines of every congratulatory "Bloggers get the credit!!!" major mainstream media story.

Some of the celebration is probably even genuine... but in every "Bloggers help take down CBS!" expose, every journalist has that other voice whispering in his/her ear: "Next time, that might be me." Old Media's going to be watching "Pajama Media" a *lot* more closely from here on in. We were instrumental in knocking a hole in not just the credibility of CBS and Rather, but potentially also wrecking the long term credibility of every other old media organ. It's more than a bit of human nature to not place all the blame for Rather's embarassment on Rather's sloppiness and willingness to lunge at a story - but to place a lot of it on the "upstart medium" that was instrumental in shooting him down. Everyone felt the toxic splash, the amount and degree of distancing and damage control attests to that.

There's a probable perception here and there that we're easier to "fix" than the problems that led to Rather's denouement. The attempts to "fix" the problem that new media represents should be interesting, and vastly entertaining.

This is worth noting, but it occurs to me that the blogosphere is already fairly self-correcting so I am not all that concerned that Big Media might be watching. Of course, no system can be completely self-correcting, especially when dealing with the interface between truth and the perceptions of fallen humans, but some systems work better than others and a decentralized, spontaneous system like the blogosphere is probably about as good as it gets. But pride goeth before a fall and it certainly isn't advisable to start thinking that we've ushered in a new era of Truth, Justice and the American Way.

I think the best result of the exposure of Memogate would be that journalism ceases to be thought of as a profession of oracles and becomes what it always should have been: a useful division of labor in a free information market. Journalists provide a valuable service by doing the research and correlation that most of us don't have time or resources to accomplish on our own. If they stick to that vision of themselves they are no less likely to become corrupt than the average butcher, baker or candelstick maker. The problem comes when, like the priesthood at the start of the Middle Ages, they begin to see their profession as somehow loftier or more central (depending on the governing metaphor) than any other laborer. Then a Nietzchean sort of master morality kicks in and they begin to see that they need not live by the same rules as the little people -- with wholly predictable results.
(Via: You Know Who)

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