Sunday, May 17, 2009

Who’s in Charge, Anyway?

It’s time to circle back to where I started with this blog and question the value of all this online content other than providing me and anyone else with a very public soapbox. As long as we all grasp that idea, it’s fine. Truly a global sharing of opinion.

Got that? O-p-i-n-i-o-n! Maybe there are some facts thrown in, but you can’t really count on it. And I fear there’s too much acceptance of most of what’s found on the internet.

Here’s a scary phrase that I saw the other day: “participatory journalism.” Getting news that’s relevant to you. To me, that’s just this side of being oxymoronic. For starters, relevant, schmelevant. First, I want to know: is it accurate? The fact that it’s participatory makes me question how true it may be. Accuracy first, please; then I’ll worry about relevant. I don’t know about you, but if I had to pick one or the other… please, give me accurate and let me worry about what I may or may not find relevant.

Besides, the news is news. How sheltered would I be if I only received articles that I pre-determined to be relevant by subject or location? The search engine that makes that determination is still artificial intelligence and lacks judgment. How much would I be missing? How much would any of us miss? How many participatory front pages would consist of: who’s voted off American Idol, booted off the island, found on Lost, and the local weather?

At least with traditional media, I believe there’s some foundation based in fact… that some editor somewhere is reviewing stories and information for truth and demanding that journalists have solid, reliable sources. Although that said, I’m sensing that foundation is starting to crumble or, at the very least, crack. Too often, the grammarian in me sees misspellings and other errors in assorted publications. I hope we don’t get to the point where texting abbreviations and emoticons become the norm in our news stories.

No one’s got to cite a source to publish online, and good copy can persuade some folks to believe just about anything. I suppose Wikipedia is the ultimate participatory information experience, but it’s a little frightening to me. “He’s like Wikipedia: he’s got all the answers, but they’re not always right.” Can Wikipedia change reality? It’s got the potential to change history, so why not?

Even a good journalist has to fight the urge now and then not to let the facts get in the way of a good story… so what’s to stop me or any other blogger out there from convincing the world of our expertise on anything or everything? The answer’s simple: not a thing, my friend, not a thing.

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