Are we safer because of the Internet, bloggers, and the shift from printed publications to on-line media?
Speaking in Austin this week, former CBS anchor Dan Rather said that many modern-day journalists are – according to a story by Daniel Terdiman of CNET – “lapdogs” who cozy up to their sources and fail to ask tough questions. The traditional watchdog role of the media is imperiled by gutless reporters who trade access for honest reporting, Rather said.
On the bright side, Rather said "the Internet is a tremendous tool for not just news, (because) its potential is unlimited for that.” The Internet, he argued, fosters "illumination and opening things up."
Thomas Friedman, author of The World is Flat, offers an excellent "illumination" example, describing in The New York Times today how environmental groups used the Internet to oppose TXU’s plan to build 11 coal-fired power plants, eventually driving a private equity firm which sought to buy TXU to reduce the number of coal-fired plants to two. Regardless of what you think of coal, that Internet campaign was a demonstration of real power, i.e. the ability to change the very air that we breathe.
Two things are happening in the world of media. The large, deep-pocket media companies are adopting a “hyper-local” approach to news. Instead of a Los Angeles Times which reports on Iraq’s street battles, with a well-staffed bureau in Baghdad, the trend toward hyper-local news would result, instead, in detailed stories about battles to keep WalMart out of unwelcoming neighborhoods. Unfortunately, an emphasis on local news often begets lapdog journalism because of a tendency to cheer for the home team, especially on the business pages.
The second trend is toward Web sites focused on particular industries and interest groups. These New Media, including knowledgeable bloggers, are taking up the slack from the decline of the established print publications. Again, the challenge is to maintain the resources, and yes, the access, to dig up the story-behind-the-press release. Iraq bureaus take money, lots of it.
Journalists working for Web-based media have no corner on courage, or intelligent fact-digging. What they do have is an ability to tell the world what they think is going on over the Internet, a powerful capability indeed.
About weQuest: weQuest's are written by G Dan Hutcheson, his career spans more than thirty years, in which he became a well-known as a visionary for helping companies make businesses out of technology. This includes hundreds of successful programs involving product development, positioning, and launch in Semiconductor, Technology, Medicine, Energy, Business, High Tech, Enviorntment, Electronics, healthcare and Business devisions.