The mainstream media's discomfort with the new net culture is both sad and predictable, as is the result: People with hard-earned experience in reporting and communication aren't even participating in the conversation about the future of their trade. They've conceded their place at the public table.
One can hardly blame these news executives. The web, particularly the blogosphere, is a hostile place to loiter if you're flashing mainstream media credentials. Most editors haven't kept up with the new technologies themselves, don't blog, don't run RSS. Trained as gatekeepers, the very thought of democratic involvement in information sounds like a sure prescription for chaos. To these people, bloggers look like anarchists. Grassroots journalism looks like a passing fad.
But as the media wars of 2003-04 have proven repeatedly, journalism isn't the problem. We're suffering from various media failures, and most of them are traceable to corporate executives, editors and reporters who skimped on journalism in favor of something else: Profit, favor, partisanship, intellectual laziness.
We need more journalism, better journalism, smarter and more principled journalism. Gathering and communicating information ethically and accurately is a much trickier business than most rookie bloggers might imagine, and in this, mainstream reporters and editors might be a valuable resource. Conversely, blogs and other citizen-run sites could actually provide the intellectual capital and manpower to transform mainstream media into a truly 21st century model.
Without that partnership, the future looks increasingly corporate, and it is only a matter of time before the same forces that captured and ruined American newspapers grasp the keys to the blogosphere and destroy it as well. As the Who put it, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
This blog does not aim to lead the conversation, but to join it.