Internet Is A Freer, More Honest, More Responsive, Less Responsible Media

Trained as a journalist, I had sought in many of my published writings to be “objective” — to split the difference between what in the American political dichotomy was perceived as liberal and what was perceived as conservative–to achieve a kind of “balance” that criticized and complimented both sides with equanimity.

I never kidded myself that this kind of journalism, which grew out of economic necessity and a desire to achieve credibility with the broadest possible audience, was the “unvarnished truth.” The practical reality was that a free press belonged to those who owned one. And the owner, or publisher, ultimately determined the truth he could afford to tell, or more importantly, sell.

With this new medium of the Internet, a free press is no longer reserved for those rich enough to own one. And journalists don’t have to sit on a high and mighty throne and pompously pretend to be totally objective truth-tellers. The Internet, unfiltered by mainstream media “gatekeepers,” has exposed the public to rampant media “bias” or “spin” or “perspective.” The public realizes more than ever that mainstream media claims of objectivity are a myth. On the Internet, a journalist is better off if he doesn’t pretend to have an omniscient, all-knowing voice. He may even be more credible if he communicates in his own voice and engages in conversation with his readers. The professional publishers no longer have a monopoly on communication; on the Internet, it is two-way, not one-way, and if a writer is well-read, his readers are likely to scrutinize his work, challenge him and keep him as intellectually honest as his editor probably could.

A vast number of people, no longer sitting passively in front of their television sets, no longer spoon-fed mass American culture, can now interact with people around the world, and even become publishers themselves without the high cost of purchasing or leasing a printing press or chopping down a forest. But that means also that they are less likely to adhere to responsible, professional journalistic practices, and may libel or invade people’s privacy, or violate copyright with impunity.

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