Friday, November 25, 2005

And How Wise Are Crowds, Exactly?

Craig Newmark, you may know him from his List, is a partner in a planned net-based new news media project. Newmark says the US media are "afraid to talk truth to power."

I'm guessing he means US media are insufficiently inquisitive or skeptical, because it isn't really a reporters job to talk truth to power, but rather to talk truth to us and let us take it up with our employees.

At any rate:

"The big issue in the U.S. is that newspapers are afraid to talk truth to power. The White House press corps don't speak the truth to power -- they are frightened to lose access they don't have anyway."

Newmark, who started Craigslist in his apartment in 1994 and has seen it grow to a worldwide audience, said recent developments, such as journalists coming under fire for controversial leaks in the Valerie Wilson case, are eroding readers' trust.

"The American public has lost a lot of trust in conventional newspaper mechanisms. Mechanisms are now being developed online to correct that," he said, according to the Guardian.

Yet Newmark, whose site was blamed in one study for siphoning $50 million in ads from Bay Area newspapers, struck a more conciliatory note on his blog, at

"This kind of technology is intended to preserve the best of existing journalistic practices and should help retain newsroom jobs," he wrote. "It's intended to complement, preserve and grow existing media."

It was unclear from his comments if his site would resemble a news aggregator, like the Google News feature that searches online news sites, or if it would be more of a so-called "citizen journalism" initiative, in which ordinary people offer their own reportage outside the strictures of conventional newsrooms.
"Citizen journalism" has been a Craig-buzz-word for the past few years. It's also been a buzz-word for others, but one that, I'd argue, has been struggling to find traction and meaning in a world where it's increasing clear that pretty much anyone, anytime has the potential to strike it media-rich as a celebrity in any number of capacities, including newsmaking/reporting.

This article piqued my attention because I'm currently working on wrapping up a paper dealing with issues of anonymous sourcing, reporters' privileges, and journalistic duty - if such a thing exists.

If this Craig-assisted project does involve the creation of a new - hell - paradigm or even a new method of providing information to the "crowds," I'd be very curious to see how it is structured and executed.

After this paper is written, I'll have to post some more about the disturbing First Amendment discussions held among some members of my class. They should, hopefully, frighten more than just my libertarian readers.

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