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Journalism and the Net

©01 The Media Desk

         The Desk was discussing the role of the Internet in the field of journalism with a guy that seems to have his oars in the water the other day.

         We both agreed that anybody from Elvis to Satan can post any darned fool thing that comes into their head on the Net that they want and nobody can say a whole lot about it.

         We both allowed that at least half the stuff you see on the web is probably more or less crap. There is no editorial review board, no peer review, no nothing. Once it's out there, it's out there.

         We also seemed to agree that the new will eventually wear off and while the number of users on the web will never decline, time per user on line may decrease for several reasons. One of the biggest reasons will be sheer boredom with the same bad noise being repeated all the time. Don't believe me, explain the turnover in TV sit-coms every year.

         We differed on the role traditional journalists, even not so traditional journalists will play on the net.

         It is true that the quality of writing on the net is lousy.
         Proofreading doesn't exist. Even the Desk has recognized errors in text on such lauded sites as CNN and FoxNews. The USA TODAY was to traditional journalism what the Spice Girls were to the Metropolitan Opera. Now the Internet has taken that a step further.
         At least in the USA TODAY they still use punctuation. They have paragraphs that any grade school teacher will recognize. On the NET however, all that goes by the wayside. The format is interchangeable with the content, symbols and juxtaposition carry meaning, even if the meaning is different to different readers.
         If I typed: Clinton Sucks. Everybody has some idea that I would not want Mr. Bill as a guest over for Christmas Dinner. but:       BC :o

         To me that looks like a Boston College football score. But to some hoser on a web site, that evidently meant that the former president sucks.
         So where would a traditional journalist, even a traditional Gonzo journalist (in the original sense of the word gonzo) fit into this mix.

         True objective journalism is a fine ideal, it is also unachievable.

         To report an election truly objectively you would have to write...
               Smith 4938 votes. Jones 1924 votes.

         That is objective.

               Smith stomped Jones.

         Was it a stomping? The vote was 3 to 1, that's not all that bad, define stomp. Subjective, even though some may not see it as such.

         On the WEB, you can write Smith was a bigger sadistic fascist than Nixon on a good day and used every trick in the book to stuff the ballot box for himself and sold his own sister to a Hong Kong adult movie producer to win the election.
         And there is no accountability.
         You can go on to call him a cross dressing cat abuser and a registered liberal and nobody can do anything about it.
         Oh they can petition your server to drop you and like that.

         But there is no equal time law, there is no way to retract it, there is no editor looking over your shoulder saying, "You can't just go call the sitting President 'a sack of putrefying toad innards that should be dropped into the nearest pit toilet and buried under thirty feet of concrete.'" (Actual statement made by the Desk on the Playpen BBS referring to Bill the Lecher which the Manager of the SPINS wanted pulled)

         He thought that people have enough sense to realize that some of what they read is feldercarb.

         That users will drive sites out of business by ignoring them if they present garbage.

         That rumormongering and slander and hogwash on the web will keep traditional papers and sites and such in business.

         I simply reminded him of where he went wrong there.


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