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Vegas Blog World: What comes next in media?

The terms new and old media distort — but trust panels and speakers at the Blog World convention here in Las Vegas this weekend will invest both intellect and passion in debating what is old, what is new and what comes next in the Information Age.

There is good, informative journalism produced with integrity and there is something far less: the dreck of spin, gossip and propaganda.

There is quality entertainment, be it high, low, and middlin’ brow, and then there is utter schlock.

New and old media both provide the good, the dreck, the quality and the schlock.

New technology does create new opportunities for sharing information and exploring ideas. The printing press and paper certainly advanced science and arguably democratic politics. First the telegraph, then radio then television collapsed the “silence of distance” — making near-instantaneous “news” possible.

Print and electronic media created new space for new voices and new ideas. The printing press became an “alternative medium” to the town crier — a man likely in the pay of the local baron. Printing Bibles spread the Gospel, and with Bibles in homes, believers learned to read.

The priests — the theological elites — lost control of the text and lost control of the text’s interpretation.

The digital “new” media expand this arc. Cheap digital technologies and the Internet permit individual distribution and highly individualized participation based on individual connectivity. Individual distribution and “lateral connectivity” have altered the media business model. YouTube videos shot by 19-year-olds get more viewers than many cable TV programs — and their production quality is improving.

Moreover, individual connectivity has tapped what I call the “distributed genius” of human beings. In the early 1990s I used that term to describe an e-mail “listserve” group I joined which included a number of military reservists and National Guardsmen, a retired Marine, a military historian and at least two men on active duty. The members were scattered (distributed) around the world. Ask for advice on a military issue and presto — feedback from an articulate pro who had been there and done it. Feedback invariably sparked informed debate from another pro who had done it differently.

Some old media organizations and a few new ones fear “distributed genius.”

Four years ago, September 2004, distributed genius brought down Dan Rather and gave CBS News a black eye. Three attorneys (Powerlineblog.com), a mathematically gifted guitar player (littlegreenfootballs. com), and an Atlanta attorney with expertise in script fonts (posting at freerepublic.com under the name “Buckhead”) exposed Rather’s “Air National Guard documents” story on “60 Minutes” as fakes. Rather still doesn’t get it. Credit Time magazine for at least detecting the seismic shift — Time declared Powerline “blog of the year.” (The post that did it may be found at: http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/007760.php).

What is next? For a decade everyone has been searching for a new media model. Arguably Rupert Murdoch began building an “integrated media organization” more than 15 years ago, though one with many “legacy media” elements.

“Convergence Media” has appeared — text, audio and video, providing information in a medium most convenient to the user.

Moreover, the technology is available to talented, creative individuals operating in agile, cooperative organizations — without the Industrial Age overhead strangling many “old” companies, like high-rent offices and network contracts paying millions to hairdos who read teleprompters.

Austin Bay is a military columnist for Creators Syndicate who moderated a panel at Blog World, a convention this weekend in Las Vegas.

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