December 26, 2004
PressThink's Top Ten Ideas for 2004: Introduction
These are my top ten ideas for the year 2004. The year in press think, as it were. I chose not the "best" ideas, but the ones most useful to me in figuring out what's going on. They weren't necessarily born in '04, either. But they emerged this year. Some have authors; usually it is many authors. Ready?
Here they are: (The first three are discussed in this post.)
1. The Legacy Media.
2. He said, she said, we said.
3. What the printing press did to the Catholic Church the blogging press does to the media church.
4. Open Source Journalism, or: “My readers know more than I do.” (Dec. 28)
5. News turns from a lecture to a conversation. (Dec. 29)
6. “Content will be more important than its container.” (Jan. 1)
7. “What once was good—or good enough—no longer is.” (Jan.4)
8. “The victory of affinity over geography.”
9. The Pajamahadeen.
10. The Reality-Based Community.
Now if I were Time magazine, this post would be called Idea of the Year, and I would unveil one as the “winner” right now. There is a certain temptation in that. But somehow I feel a top ten list is an established gimmick, “okay” if you do it well. Picking Person of the Year is an extreme gimmick. It falls into this dead zone between journalism, and hype. (See Time’s managing editor James Kelly try to manuever in the zone: “I think it’s very problematic to do God. Partly because I suppose you could do God every year.”)
This post is about ideas 1-3 on my list. Number 4 is here; number 5 is here, while 6 is right here and number 7 is here.
1. The Legacy Media. The initials made famous this year were MSM for “mainstream media,” but there’s no idea there, just a category— mainstream, as against “alternative” or “Web.” Calling the same complex the legacy media makes more sense. And there is an idea there: inertia can be fatal.
The “old” media (CBS is a good example) hang on to their legacy. Also called reputation, credibility, “brand,” or tradition, it is the probably the biggest asset CBS News, the division, has. But there are legacy costs, too. It’s hard for legacy firms to re-organize and re-tool themselves for the Net era. People at the top of their game are slow to see it when the status of the game itself changes.
“It’s as if you owned an electric utility and suddenly everyone could generate electricity and send it through the air,” writes Douglas Fisher at Common Sense Journalism. He was talking about newspapers and their assets, but the point holds for the legacy media generally in an era of exploding supply. “Those billions and billions of dollars of plant you own suddenly might be worth only millions.” But that’s not the worst of it. The worst of it is overcoming denial, admitting your world has changed, and taking the write down on assets.
“Like most monopolists, they’ve spent so many years enjoying their position and not worrying about quality that they’re left floundering now that competition is exposing their faults.” That’s what Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, said during the thick of the 2004 campaign. “Whoever winds up in the White House next year, the position of these traditional media outlets (or ‘legacy media’ as some call them) continues to decline.”
In the airline industry, the “legacy carriers” have been given up for dead. It’s not just the costs of their union contracts. Its the legacy of thinking “hub and spoke,” or the legacy of trying to be all things to all people. Legacy companies are often the ones that cannot adapt to changes in a world they once easily dominated.
The world that is passing not only made fortunes for the big players, it made status and it made sense for the smaller players— the professionals who operate Big Media. Take the journalists at CBS. Their professional routines were formed under one-to-many conditions. The very language they speak at work assumes a one-to-many, broadcasting-forever world. But they no longer operate in such a world.
Many people at CBS News—including, unfortunately, the President of the division—did not know that a story based on questionable documents could be taken apart in hours on the Web because of the Web’s ability to mobilize distributed knowledge. The Web to them was Matt Drudge, a factual Wild West— no laws, no rules, no reliability.
That it might in certain circumstances be a more powerful truth machine than CBS News was inconceivable at CBS News during (and after) the Memos mess this fall. In September, I wrote a post with the title, “Did the President of CBS News Have Anyone in Charge of Reading the Internet and Sending Alerts?” By asking people who work there, I have since determined that he didn’t.
Will the legacy mind adapt? We don’t really know. And for that reason the legacy media may yet prevail. Trust, reputation, authority, brand, tradition… if these are not entirely durable, they are certainly preservable across platforms. The legacy media could re-gain the initiative, but it will not be because denial “works.” It will be because denial ends.
A final word to users of the shorthand, MSM: You can’t keep calling it the mainstream media if one of your major points is how out of touch liberal journalists are with the mainstream. I think you mean legacy media. (It seems Roger Simon does.) And I wouldn’t dismiss that legacy just yet.
See PressThink: Stark Message for the Legacy Media (Sep. 14, 2004).
2. He said, she said, we said. This is simply the argument that journalists ought not to allow things to remain at the level of “He said, she said.” It’s hard to say why—exactly why—but in 2004 it became clear to the clearest-thinking journalists: Leave the field when there is a head-on collision between incompatible truth claims and you are being neither responsible nor fair.
The “we said” part is partly a response to spin artistry and its intensity, as Campaign Desk’s Susan Stranahan wrote in May. “Given the amount of spin this election year, the old rules don’t apply any more,” she said. “Campaign Desk herewith proposes a new ground rule: ‘He said/she said/we said.’” Under this system, reporters are expected to do the required research and “draw an independent assessment on any given day of who is right, who is wrong, and in what way.”
There were many variations on this theme floating around in 2004. But they all involved the journalist’s authority to make judgments, which was to be re-claimed. (“Reportorial authority,” the Desk called it. See this review.) Vaughn Venders in the National Journal said that the major news organizations “need to take a bigger step forward and establish themselves as the places that validate the news. Don’t just report the ‘news’; define the accuracy of it.”
Steven R. Weisman, chief diplomatic correspondent for The New York Times and former editorial writer once explained why it matters if you take that step into we said,. as he did when writing editorials. “If you have to decide who is right, then you must do more reporting,” he told Brent Cunningham of CJR. “I pressed the reporting further because I didn’t have the luxury of saying X says this and Y says this and you, dear reader, can decide who is right.”
That word luxury is well chosen. Daniel Okrent, public editor of the New York Times, noted that the Wall Street Journal allows its reporters “far more authority to make assertions in their own voices than most American dailies,” while at the Times “some of the very best journalists in the country keep what they know off the page because they’ve been tied up by an imprecise definition of objectivity.” By imprecise he means “he said, she said” and the impression of balance it’s supposed to leave.
I wrote this in June about “we said,” trying to explain why a standard like that is a big deal: “Conclusion-avoiding and offloading judgment to experts and partisans became a craft norm in political journalism— the gods of credibility had decreed it. If there is now more credibility in coming to judgment (when you have the goods) that is a big change, as well. It means new gods are rumbling under the press room.”
He said, she said, we said had its own controversy this year, when Mark Halperin, political director of ABC News, told his troops: “current Bush attacks on Kerry involve distortions and taking things out of context in a way that goes beyond what Kerry has done.” This was the we said part, making its appearence in a communique. Halperin caught hell for it from some. It was thought by observers who supported the President to be a blatant admission of bias— or a declaration of war. (Powerline: “ABC News’ Political Director Mark Halperin has directed the ABC News staff to support John Kerry.”)
I think Bush supporters knew that “he said, she said, we said” was a consequential idea.
See PressThink: He Said, She Said, We Said (June 4, 2004).
3. What the printing press did to the Catholic Church the blogging press is doing to the media church.
Here it is from Belmont Club: “for good or ill, the genie is out of the bottle. Before the Gutenberg printing press men knew the contents of the Bible solely through the prism of the professional clergy, who could alone afford the expensively hand copied books and who exclusively interpreted it. But when technology made books widely available, men could read the sacred texts for themselves and form their own opinions. And the world was never the same again.” (Aug. 24)
Here it is again from Doug Kern in October: “Then as now, a new technology gives ordinary people unmediated access to the truth. The Western invention of the printing press in the late fifteenth century and the subsequent dissemination of Bibles written in the vernacular gave lay believers the opportunity to read holy writ and draw their own conclusions about it — just as the Internet gives ordinary people direct access to facts, information, and commentary. The Gutenberg Bible was the first hyperlink.” (Oct. 5)
And here it is a third time from Steven Den Beste: “Technological change has always had profound social consequences, but few inventions in history have caused more political and cultural change than movable type printing. Before Gutenberg, ‘truth’ and ‘history’ were largely properties of the Christian Church (and there was only one Christian Church, then). Movable type printing took away control over ‘the truth’ from the Church and placed it in the hands of a secular elite. Now the Internet is taking away that secular elite’s control over ‘the truth’ and giving it to the broad populus.” (Oct. 23)
Movable type: it was always a brilliant name for blogging software.
See PressThink: Journalism Is Itself a Religion (Jan. 7, 2004)
Still to come: Posts about ideas 7-10 on my list. So far:
After Matter: Notes, reactions and links
Overheard in the comments… legacy (adj)— A pejorative term used in the computer industry meaning “it works.”
A isen blog (David S. Isenberg’s musings about loci of intelligence and stupidity) he notes my refusal to name an Idea of the Year and does it himself: He said, she said, we said… is his winner, followed by Pajamahadeen.
David Brooks picks “The Hookies,” his best political essays of the year— with links to them. (Sign of the times.)
Philip Meyer, one of the sages among journalism academics, with an essay in CJR. Saving Journalism: How to nurse the good stuff until it pays.
Decline and fall: Dallas Morning News presents this news on the front page: Elections over, blog popularity wanes: “Politically oriented sites lost cachet (and cash) once campaigns ended,” says writer Colleen Nelson.
What was hot in the blogosphere in 2004? BlogPulse scoured a year’s worth of blog posts, links and trends to create a year-in-review feature.
Terry Heaton, 10 Questions for Ed Cone. A Q & A about the Greensboro blogging culture and what’s been happening there of late. Useful. Cone is concise.
Posted by Jay Rosen at December 26, 2004 10:21 AM
It would be great to see you revisit your discussion of W's demonstrated approach to press conference as an opportunity to delegitimize the legacy media by pointedly and systematically denying their right to know anything about anything, even to ask questions and have them ignored.
More broadly, an item to either add to the list, or perhaps determine where in Jay's list it might already fit, is what I'll term the Filter Question.
To use the above Bush example, the alleged premise they'd provide is the need to bypass the filter of the news media and take one's message more directly to the people without anyone else's characterizations.
But the Filter Question of course ties into blogs as well, since they combine (1) the avoidance of having to go through Legacy Media's filtering of readers (letters to the editor, and other editorially-controlled and selected communication), and (2) the creation of a countless number of new single-person filters.
There's a tension here which arises, I think, as well. For example, here in Portland one of our City Commissioners posts to a group blog called BlueOregon, including an item last night in which he explained his reasoning for an upcoming controversial vote.
On the one hand, it's useful to have elected officials bypassing media filters and stating their case personally and directly. On the other hand, there are useful elements of the traditional news media job of filtering -- presuming, of course, that journalists use the "he said, she said, we said" model.
So one could argue that having elected officials bypass traditional filters poses a problem, in that having third-parties evaluate their messages is useful and necessary. But one could also argue that having elected officials bypass traditional filters by posting to blogs exposes them to an entirely different form of after-the-fact filter, as other bloggers and blog commenters weigh in, support, oppose, and push back.
This comment is not as focused as I had intended it to be, but I'll wager people will get the general point, which is that the Filter Question is either an item to itself, or an element of one or more of the item's on Jay's list.
David: it isn't necessary to be "stunned" by our ignorance to supply the necessary history. You just have to help us out, nudge the discussion with facts, as you did in a very welcome and able way.
By the way, I agree completely that we are re-capturing something (or trying to, at least) when we talk about fallen barriers to entry, or citizens media. The "bland monopoly press" will increasingly be seen as an historical era. We have had many a press, and we'll have more, if god and history are willing.
I think it's far easier to see the value of Journalism Big J when there are many journal-isms thriving at once.
Seth: I take your point about usage in the tech industry-- "legacy" is obsolete, but the legacy carriers in the airlines industry are still around, still huge, still struggling and one or two of them may adapt and actually thrive as more efficient carriers. So they're not gone, but they are "legacy."
The legacy carriers of news still have a great many advantages-- and one of them is legacy as brand, reputation, credibility. I was trying to suggest in my post that the legacy media is not so easily toppled. But it is crippled by legacy costs.
bix... I like the filter question, but it's not so much an idea as a location. There used to be a filter at the bottleneck. Now you don't have the same bottleneck, so do you need the same filter?
My answer is: hey throw that old filter out, it won't work anymore. Put an interactive filter in there. Something built to get smarter at filtering news for a particular public by interacting with members of that public-- the intelligent filter.
What's a good blog? It's that. Take the present post, my list. I filtered the year's ideas for you.
"I don't think that's a settled question"
Slashdot readership: ~ 350,000
My blog readership: ~ 350
It's a settled question.
(redo with any super-high-traffic blog vs. a "citizen").
More specifically, it's the power law.
I'm not basing this on media coverage. I'm basing it on mathematics. The distribution of readership is highly exponential. This is well-known in theory, and also confirmed in practice. And it also has some pretty profound implications for the press.
Which connects quite deeply to your point right here:
"The fear of some in the MSM/LM, I gather, is that if the filter process is exposed to the world, "bad" or "wrong" information will get out and cause all sorts of carnage. But that's less a legitimate fear than an unfortunate belief that people (read: The People) are incapable of being literate enough in the new ways required, and therefore must be protected for their own good."
No, I'd say it's an *extremely* legitimate fear. It's based on seeing what some other versions look like, and they don't look pretty. Jay, this is the reflection of your point elsewhere about the standard media being delegitimized and defined as liberal.
Anyway, the shifts are not akin to going from a dictatorship to a democracy. They are more like, at best, very liberal Democrats to very conservative Republicans. At worst ... well, remember, a demagogue claims to be giving the people what they want.
Yes, bix, I was summarizing what I understand Seth to be saying.
Personal attack? What in blazes are you talking about, Seth? Do you find any "attack" in my summary of what you have been saying? Perhaps a note or two of sarcasm, but surely you don't object to that. Maybe you are anticipating attacks and that's what you meant. By the way, I worked hard on my paraphrase, was it not accurate?
This is a discussion, Seth. You're not under assault, you're just being explicated. Look at my words again and see if you don't agree. Or look at your own words:
I think what you're exploring is the phenomena of "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss". Replacing the "Older Media"... with "The A-list" might be wonderful for the A-list'ers and co. But it doesn't do away with general problems, merely shifts around the outcomes. From the viewpoint of anyone not in the business, all that's happened is one set of (media) bosses has been replaced by another set of (media) bosses.
I stayed pretty close to those words in my summary.
Ben Franklin: I quite agree with you that the legacy media's world began crumbling in the 1970s with cable television. The Net came along after twenty years of unraveling. It's easy to say the Net did this and that, but there was a lengthy "set-up" pre-1995.
John Moore-- if you want to go on calling the people you attack for being out of touch with the mainstream the "mainstream" media, then, heck, you go right ahead. I was trying to point out a little contradiction there, but if you are unconcerned by it, then MSM it is!
I welcome the interest, of course, John, but may I ask why you are so looking forward to number 10 on my list?
Line by line:
In other words, bix, your A-list bloggers--Kos, Atrios, Reynolds, Sullivan, but also Winer, Searls, Jarvis, maybe even Rosen at times--are "just like" CBS, the New York Times, the AP, Newsweek, CNN because these upper crust blogs represent a bottleneck "just like" the Big Media bottleneck, and they wield an arbitrary power (arbitrary because there can only be so many "major" blogs like there can only so many "major networks) that is "just like" the arbitrary power of the editors making up the elite front page that will influence all the other little front pages.
Yes. Absolutely. This part is a reasonable paraphrase of my views.
Nothing is really different at all in blog land--some details there and there, but they mislead--and if you think there is something more "open" about the Web, why, it's because the A-listers--by talking incessantly of open this, open that--persuaded you of an illusion that keeps their own similarity to Big Media a big secret.
This starts to get inaccurate with sneering and snideness. The inaccuracy is in the *combination* of phrases "mislead", "illusion" and "big secret", particularly the last. At best, I'd say the term is "unpopular" or "impolitic to discuss". So more accurate is:
"Nothing is really different at all in blog land--some details there and there, but they often distract from the overall similarities--and if you think there is something more "open" about the Web, why, it's because the A-listers--by talking incessantly of open this, open that--persuaded you of a perspective that keeps their own similarity to Big Media impolitic to discuss"
It's still not quite right because it implies a direct intentionality that I don't assert.
Except to Seth, who is on to their game-- a game that, in effect, is an intellectual fraud. "It's just a change in who is at the top," as Seth said.
And here is where we get (mildly) personal and nasty. "Except to Seth, who is on to their game". Bleh. ATTACKING ME DOESN'T CHANGE THE MATHEMATICS!!!
"a game that, in effect, is an intellectual fraud."
In another context, I wouldn't mind this, but right after "Except to Seth, who is on to their game", it's an implicit _ad hominem_, coming back to the incorrect direct intentionality in the preceding paragraph. Same for ""It's just a change in who is at the top," as Seth said". As a sentence in isolation, it's one thing, in the context of attacking a strawman, it's another.
But it's really not even that, since Seth also says: meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
And the above is hash - "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" means that there's a few gatekeepers who determine what gets read. There are small changes in who gets to be a gatekeeper, which does not contradict the fact that there *are* just a relatively few gatekeepers.
Look, this is hardly the worst I've ever gotten, by far. But, let's say it connects to bad memories.
The part most wrong about the paraphrase is that it tries to rebut an assert that many people are making a common, understandable, mistake in reasoning, by casting that as an assertion these people are engaging in a deliberate intentional deception, then rebutting that misstatement from implication that it's unreasonable on its face that all these people are engaging in a deliberate intentional deception.
Or, more simply, many people think they are above average. But many of those are factually wrong, even if they think they are right. 100% of the population can't be above average. Compare: "Seth thinks he's soooo smart, that he knows better than everyone else who thinks they're above average that they can't all be right. If you think there is something more above-average about the Web, why, it's because the Top 1%--by talking incessantly of above-average this, above-average that--persuaded you of an illusion that keeps Regression To The Mean a big secret."
Another interesting and provocative discussion. Although I'm still skeptical of the broad claims that bloggers will replace or even make a major dent in the big "legacy" media.
The smart and innovative folks in this discussion are clearly ahead of their time, ahead of the rest of the country and the world in thinking about these issues, which is what makes it interesting and even exciting.
But remember, the history of science is filled with stories of inventors who were ahead of their time but died penniless and almost forgotten. Philo T. Farnsworth comes to mind, the true inventor of the television picture tube.
I have experienced being ahead of my time twice already in my short life (although not that short, since I'm almost 50):
First when I opened one of the first newsstand/bookstore/coffee bars back in the mid-1980s, well before Starbucks came on the scene and took over the coffee business, and Books A Million opened its chain stores and took over much of the retail book/newsstand business (in the hinterlands of course. I'm assuming Korean families still have a hold on much of this business in New York).
Second when I started THE FIRST full blown magazine online that you could print, even using an early pdf converter. It was also edited in a traditional way, for example using italics for publication names such as The New York Times.
No one bothers with that anymore. And it didn't take long for new ways of programming to come on the scene that resulted in Weblogs becoming the dominant form for Net journalism - at least for now.
I'm still skeptical of "we said," and "open source journalism" or the idea that news will change from a lecture to a conversation, because most of the comments from readers are still mostly garbage (PressThink company excluded of course). In short, it's just another way for conservatives to trash journalists as "biased" (read liberal, and check out the New York Times Web forum to see what I mean).
As for the influence of the "reality-based community," unless smart people start having more babies than the mostly under-educated Christians in the so-called red states, it is going to be increasingly difficult for the "intelligentsia" in this country to influence politics and policy over the "faith-based community," which clearly has the upper hand now.
They still turn to broadcast media for news and views, mostly local TV news and talk radio. And there's no end in site to this. As they get involved in the Net, they just push the same talking points over and over and waste massive amounts of bandwidth bashing the "liberal press," whether it's CBS, the New York Times or Press Think. This is just a new manifestation of the liberal press as far as they are concerned.
They do not, and will not, listen to reason because their knowledge base is faith and authority, not logic or empirical evidence. Witness the raging debate over evolution verses intelligent design.
We are losing this debate. One of the reasons, as I've argued here before, is because we are operating under a mostly capitalist definition of objectivity. Until we (the educated elite, as opposed to the masses) go back and recognize that the "great commission" of objective journalism was the advancement of science and democracy, we are going to remain hamstrung to stop the fundamentalist rage that threatens to swamp several hundred years of progress.
One of the reasons I post to this blog is to try and add some regional diversity to the discussion. I'm far more in touch with this phenomenon than David Brooks at the New York Times. He has his hands on the data, and has flown into a lot of states. I've lived and worked as a journalist and academic here for the past 25 years.
Part of the problem with blogging is that you can't get all of your thoughts into a brief comment box. Many of you will think this post is too long. So I'm working on a longer essay on this subject, potentially for Harper's magazine, and a book length manuscript. If there are any potential publishers reading, please get in touch. The idea is to try and make this case for a science-based definition of objectivity, base in part on the early history of mass circulation daily newspapers.
Meanwhile, here's an example of the primary benefit of blogging to date. A third-year Harvard law student, who really wants to be a writer, starts an anonymous blog about being a soulless lawyer. Before long he builds up a significant amout of traffic, and before you know it, he's unmasked in the New York Times. Next week, he will have a book deal. From new media to old media to money in the bank.
Revealing the Soul of a Soulless Lawyer
There are always going to be writers or sources with larger readerships than others. That would seem to be an entirely irrelevant issue.
The distinctions when it comes to the medium in question, and its various forms, are (1) the potential for any given writer to reach a wider range of people because of the ease of access to their material and (2) the increased likelihood of people itnerested in what you have to say finding you because of search technologies.
I don't have anything resembling Slashdot's readership either, but chances are fairly high that people looking for information about Portland are going to find me via a Google or two, especially if they are looking for information about Portland politics.
Granted, I'm neither a theoretician or statistician, so all I can draw from is direct experience, or that near enough to me to be usefully observed.
Here in Portland, I think it would be difficult to argue that blogs (and I don't mean just mine) have not started to make a noticable impact on the media scene, what with elected officials, City staffers, political candidates, and Portland journalists reading, commenting on, citing, and/or contributing to those local blogs.
Those same elected officials, City staffers, political candidates, and Portland journalists were not previously reading, comenting on, citing, and/or contributing to local zines, fanzines, fansubs, etc.
That would seem to suggest that we are dealing with some obvious distinctions which some here keep skirting.
Note entry is not the same as materials cost. You can send a letter to the editor at the New York Times, for 37 cents postage. Just 37 cents may get you seen by a huge number of people.
This isn't an entirely direct analogy. While there is no guarantee that people will see what you write either in a letter to the NY Times or in a post to your weblog, if the editors of the Times don't print your letter, it's gone, period. Your weblog post is there waiting to be found by someone looking for whatever it is the post is about.
There are still gateways, if we want to use that term, between the reader and that weblog post, but they are not the gateways in place in the process of trying to get a letter published by the NY Times.
At this point someone may pipe up and say "I put down one dollar on the lottery and won and became a millionaire, so that proves it's possible to become rich with one dollar invested". It sure is. But only for roughly one person per lottery.
Also an imprecise analogy, because one dollar does not get you into every lottery from here until you die or your hosting provider hoses your archives. But posting a weblog entry brings with it the continual potential of it being discoered by someone looking for whatever it is you wrote about. So, to dip briefly into your take, the math is different.
If you need any objective proof of what I say, just take a look at the hard time I'm having in advancing simple mathematics, versus the popular appeal of boosterism.
People aren't disputing the math, they are disputing whether or not the assumptions and priorities you use in order to decide what mathematical model to toss at us are actually the right ones.
The problem with math is that the topic it's modelling it selected by a person trying to advance a particular way of framing the issue. There are ways to frame the issue at hand that you math doesn't address.
I was going to give b!X the last word above, but since there still seems to be life in this thread, maybe one more round:
b!X: Again, the fundamental problem isn't the "potential", it's the probability. All the air in the room could "potentially" move to one side of the room - but it's not likely to happen. Yes, someone who is trying to sell the lottery by saying "Every ticket has the potential to make you rich!", and someone saying the lottery is a poor wealth-builder since "Only roughly one person will win, and everyone else will lose", are *both* trying to advance a particular way of framing the issue. That's absolutely true. One can also frame the issue as having fun playing the lottery, as enjoying the process. Correct again. However, the lottery has well-defined odds, payoffs, and a distribution, and these are critical parts of the lottery structure, if one wants to know how many people will become rich, or what amount of money will be shifted around. This is indeed an imperfect analogy. However, given how much effort is spent going over the difference between potentiality vs probability, I assert it conveys the critical concept.
And in fact, people are disputing the math, because it implies there's going to be a tiny few who have great power, and then everyone else (exponential distribution). I don't see that there's widespread acceptance on this point. The most common dispute is the "But every lottery ticket can win!" type of reply. Once more, it can, but mathematically, it's not likely. Talking of what *could* happen is little help when we need to know what *probably will happen*. A reply that someone may enjoy writing their diary, or web-chatting with friends, is not something I argue with, it's just irrelevant to the point about the structure of the information sorting process.
When we have that settled at last, we can go through the details of the calculations in specific (there are some insights there e.g. what seems to matter most is *relative ordering* of ease of access, NOT absolute value of ease of access).
And this segues well into the following:
corrie: A few years ago, there was no external check and balance on "60 minutes.".
That is not correct. That is false. That is an utterly inaccurate statement.
There is an entire right-wing cottage industry devoted to hating CBS/"60 minutes"/Dan Rather etc. It immediately swung into action *in parallel* with the blog-writers. But because the fable of bloggers vs. Legacy Media is echoed _ad nauseum_, your chance of seeing such an analysis is microscopic (unless an A-lister or similar promotes it).
I rest my case.