The Editor In The Machine

The Old Media is just sure this internet thing is at best a passing fad but at worst a corruption of journalism. “Where is the editor?” they ask, as they wring their professional hands in worry over amateurs defiling their parlors.

How will the public be protected from bad information? After all, anyone can post anything on a blog or discussion board, and traditional news organizations have layers and layers of highly trained fact-checkers to kill the bad stuff so the consumers only get the pure truth.   Don’t try this at home, we are experts, if there is anything significant in the general cultural noise we will let you know.

The consumer of information not only wants “the truth”, he also wants to see the process for himself, and he does not mind evaluating claims for himself.  And this is the point the professional journalists seem to be so slow to get.   They don’t dispute that the bloggers occasionally get one right.   Read most any article in the MSM about this ongoing paradigm shift and you see this pattern: first, a concession of the occasional coup, then, the horror list of bogus information swirling around the internet.   And the conclusion is predictable: yes, the internet has its uses — but look at all the bad information out there when there is no screener.   See!   You can’t let people be exposed to bad information.   They define success in journalism as a process which hides all bad information from the reader.

We disagree. The open-ness of the process is the protection. We’re not writing for idiots; we’re writing for us.   We don’t mind being assaulted by conspiracy theories and lies and half-truths and spin.   We’re used to it; we enjoy sorting through it.   I am reminded of Major Dick Winters’ retort to the warning that the 101st Airborne would be surrounded when they jump on Bastogne:   “We’re airborne. we’re supposed to be surrounded.” We’re supposed to have bad information around.   It’s the internet.

Like in the making of legislation and sausage, the process is ugly, but that is the price you pay for the end result.   The conclusion is to be trusted more, not less, because you can see for yourself each step toward the conclusion. The consumer of news is not a child; there is simply no harm in false information striking his retina. The standard for journalistic success is truth, not the successful hiding of all lies.

The Old Media is dead. The traditional editor’s function is assimilated. The New Media is ugly. And that is good.

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