Thursday, September 16, 2004

"The End of the Beginning..."

So CBS News and its celebrity newshounds are for the stocks... maybe. Bloggers may well congratulate each other for some fine work, not just questioning, but the slogging persistent research to track down people that have the expertise, experience, credentials, and nominal impartiality to provide definitive tests that CBS hadn't the balls to do.

Still, it might be premature to think the Old Media are dead and gone.

In 1985, Japan Air Lines flight 123 lost its rudder along with a great deal of its tail structures and all hydraulic control just 12 minutes after take-off. By heroic measures, the pilot and co-pilot were able to keep the plane flying for another half an hour, before crashing into a mountainside.

Similarly, there is enormous inertia contained in the aggregated institutions we are calling the Old Media. It's clear that they too have managed to continue flying long after their own loss of rudders and control. But in addition, there is understandable reluctance among even the harshest critics to toss them on the scrap heap. If only they could be modernized and restored so as to reflect NOT the conservative values of the current administration, but the reverence for honest reporting that on a time was the imperative of the journalistic calling.

Despite the livid accusations of liberal bloggers and supporters of Dan and Co., that reverence for honesty is what people on all sides want. Honest mis-judgments can be forgiven, even if the results are dire. Dishonesty and evasion need to be challenged even in minor affairs.

The indiscretions of youth are most crucial for whatever tempering they may confer on a person's later impulses. A blameless youth may reflect more on a person's lack of initiative than purity of heart. Many seeming heroes admit later that their actions were unconsidered in the moment. They confess admiration for those who feel great fear but manage to govern themselves through prolonged peril. And even the most extraordinary bravery in combat does not automatically confer upon the hero the judgment and wisdom needed for statecraft.

There are many explanations for the decline of Old Media, and I've tried to summarize some historical trends myself in my post "The Ossification of the Fourth Estate." One thing is certain: the "soviet" model of centralized control of a major news organization has lost its ability to compete with the de-centralized internet-work of online folks, who bring to the task an armamentarium of expertise far beyond the resources of any single corporation. If there is any consensus, it has to be a consensus defined by analysis, logic, and debate, not by selective suppression of data according to the preferences of a tiny elite.

The emerging commonalty, the so-called pajama-bloggers, comprise the entire political spectrum. For better or for worse, there will be mistakes made, and each person will likely discount data that he/she finds disagreeable. But if you survey blogsites, you find liberal sites with links to conservatives, and vice versa. People are taking pains to read each other's ideas and opinions, challenging, debating, trying to keep each other intellectually honest. The Old Media don't really allow for much feedback and converse. Some, but the threshold for it to even register is many magnitudes greater.

The pyjama brigades' uni-sex one-size-fits-all garment is a Paradigm Shift.


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