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24.5.02

It's interesting how the Web's anarchist promise has undermined itself. Take journalism, for instance. The big prediction was that, by opening up communications, the Web would allow alternative news to flourish and compete successfully with the big names. And many people still see that as the way things are headed, journalists reporting on the blog phenomenon especically so.

(As a side note, I think the overwhelming focus of articles on "blogs as alternative news," as opposed to "blogs as personal expression" or "blogs as catharsis" or "blogs as vanity" is indicative to some degree of the insularity of the journalistic community. Today David was telling me about problems that DC had with the metro a little while ago. People were getting really fed up with how often the trains stopped because things were broken. But it didn't make the papers because the journalists lived in their own little world, driving their SUVs to work and never connecting with the people out there until there was a riot on one train.)

But the proliferation of alternative news sources has in some ways had the opposite effect. Instead of democratizing information, it overwhelmed us. We suddenly had access to so much stuff, and we didn't know how to sift it for reliable reporting. People don't know where to start, and they don't have time. So they retreat to the names they're already familiar with, because familiarity makes people feel more trusting. But with the internet, we can all retreat to the same big familiar name. Living at home, the best I could do for a major established news source was the Allentown Morning Call. I can find them on the internet too, but I can also type in nytimes.com, as can everyone else with a computer. We all could be reading different material -- there's certainly enough out there. But we're more likely to all be letting the editor of msnbc tell us what's newsworthy.

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