Thursday, March 03, 2005

Mongrel Media: Harvard Conference

Hmmmm ... I don't know what it is ... but there was something about hiding out in the hallowed halls of Harvard over there, where THINKING about something is considered a better use of time, than DOING something, that had me CLIMBING the walls.

I did not understand or see why a discussion of how journalists could survive in the new media environment mattered one dot.

I couldn't help thinking, "Don't they mean, how do mainstream media journalists retain their power, their salaries, their expense accounts and their elite position of dominance and privilege, their sense of entitlement that they and only they should shape the conversation, as the sands below them shift and they find themselves drowning as social software, blogging, podcasting and all these new MONGREL MEDIA destroy them?"

And the blogger's answer is, "You can't retain your power, and we don't care if you stay on top. In fact, we kind of like to see you fall."

There are some fine journalists, it's true, but "journalism" as an institution is being shaken to the ground. And perhaps it's high time that happened.

As Jay Rosen aptly described the situation, (I paraphrase) the tools being created for self-expression and self-publishing are not designed to empower the current powerful journalists -- the top of the heirarchy -- but rather they are designed to empower the conversation between people -- the horizontal layer of audience member to audience member.

This is when I butted in and said, "I feel like you guys are making buggy whips and you're asking us new automotive executives how our technology can help you. It can't help you. It will kill you. And we don't care!" (Not a direct quote, I can't recall what I blurted out.)

What's democratic about blogging is NOT that we blog about ideas behind politics and democracy. What's democratic about blogging is that it is free and anyone can use it and therefore, we start to hear from all the voices that make up this democracy. The technology -- that is, the software is democratic in and of itself.

I didn't mean to be so impatient in my response today, but what were witnessing is a shift of power and prestige. Journalists have been accustomed to being powerful. Most people don't like giving up power. It used to be cool and MEAN SOMETHING to be The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times or NBC or CBS or CNN ... now it means less and less. It's changing. Non-Journalists are really okay with power shifting away from Mainstream Media and into the hands of ordinary people. Screw The Common Good -- some elitist notion the elite define, arrogantly telling us what we need -- give me the Common People any day, writing about their lives with simple tools that cost nothing.