Dec 5, 2007

Blind, deaf and dumb

Once upon a time, mobs would gather outside the local jail - torches blazing, blood alcohol levels soaring, of a single mind to do the job they came to do.

Now mobs gather in front of computers - no torches, blood fully caffeinated, and without a clear sense of purpose. The mobs are at the ready, but they're waiting for someone to tell them how to act.

Enter the corporate bosses. They have employed advertisers, marketers and assorted investors to figure out ways to lead these mobs without the mobs knowing they're being led.

It reminds me of that old-timey religion that got so many good people into trouble.

Which leads me back to journalism and the newsroom junkies who have barred the doors to keep the citizen media-mob out. The mob thinks the door is a barrier to a better informed world - and to its own self-fulfillment. The journalists think the door is a last, best hope to keeping their profession professional. And sitting on the sidelines are the corporate fucks who passively sicked the citizen mob on the newsroom.

Indeed, rich people have found a way to get richer by using smart, well-intentioned people as a battering ram. What this citizen media - these online evangelicals - want has little to do with the object of their disdain. As they seek to destroy the "old ways" of journalism to make room for the new (as though newspapers were crowding them out) they in fact destroy a structure that benefits them.

How does assailing professional standards, ethics and ideals help the citizen media succeed in its quest? It doesn't. It does, however, help the bosses cut costs. An unpaid blogger is cheaper than a paid journalist. An unpaid blogger doesn't need to be edited (or so we're told). And an unpaid blogger who writes well (I'd never dispute their talent) can attract as many or more eyeballs than a tough-minded City Hall reporter.

The key is to make the blogger believe he is doing something noble by not getting paid and, de facto, the journalist becomes a scoundrel and an impediment.

And how can the journalist respond? By defending the profession and the paycheck, of course. The journalist looks like an elitist in the process.

The bosses win.

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