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Bastille Day

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 21, 2003

Andrew Sullivan calls attention to a Newsweek essay by Jonathan Alter:

I hate to admit it, but Matt Drudge put it well a few weeks ago when he said: "The statue of Peter Jennings has been pulled down." The whole authority structure of mass media is being undermined by the ability of news consumers to move from passive to active, from accepting everything they read in the Times to searching and finding www.I-know-I-read-it-somewhere-on-the-Internet-so-it-must-be-true.com.

True, but incomplete. The revolution was given life partly by the passive to active shift Alter identifies. But just as important was the "democratization" of information made possible by the Internet. Only a multi-billion dollar corporation can produce high-quality television news; any mom in her basement can write and post pro-life or home-schooling info on the Web. In terms of the overall ratio of truths versus falsehoods communicated, amateurs like Stephen Brady more than hold their own against Peter Jennings and Dan Rather. For the most part, the facts that journalists report are not in and of themselves that expensive to come by. Apart from comprehensive staffing, what makes big-time news pricey is producing it so dazzingly as to make it all but indistinguishable from television entertainment. The Web filters out the dazzle factor. The result, disturbing to the media elites, is a level playing field. When the CNN or ABC web-pages have to compete with a couple million ideologically diverse amateurs story-for-story, they're not going to win every time.

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