Bonus points to anyone who can name the 1991 rap song from which the title of this post was lifted.
In my Sunday morning cruise of the news shows, I saw two things that intrigued me. The first was a discussion about a video press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Evidently, HHS put out a piece on Medicare using a hired TV reporter. The piece was edited to look like a news broadcast, and dozens of stations across the country ran all or most of the release as a legit news segment. Obviously, this irked some people.
Separately, the folks on "Fox and Friends" picked up on something we've been talking about in the online advertising industry for weeks - the defection of audiences from TV and newspapers. Surprisingly, not one of the commentators mentioned that people are flocking to the Internet. Not surprisingly, though, they talked a bit about the reasons why people are avoiding TV news and newspapers - a credibility gap.
Well, duh! When major news media fail to analyze what the administration spoon feeds them, obviously people are going to get upset and turn to other sources of news. Thankfully, the Internet is making it easier for private citizens to share thoughts with others. It's only natural that citizens turn to other citizens when news institutions go down the crapper.
The surge in popularity of blogs and independent online news sources is no coincidence. People are tired of the unprecedented cooperation between the major news media and the government. They want alternative points of view and critical thinking, not regurgitation of whatever the current administration thinks is important. We're seeing an online iteration of the "marketplace of ideas" concept, in which citizen-reporters and citizen-commentators are putting their thoughts out on the Internet in great numbers, and the cream is rising to the top.
Thanks to technology, publishing facts and commentary has never been easier. As more people publish their thoughts online, we see a process by which the best thinking, the most relevant agendas and the most credible facts come to light via a Darwinian process that involves small, independent online publishers putting forth an idea, larger online publishers developing it further, and online news aggregators disseminating it in a wider fashion. I think those that are involved in web publishing and the consumption of content from the Internet are all becoming better citizens of our democratic society for it.
Let Adam Smith's invisible hand do its job. If the mainstream broadcast and print news media want to continue sucking on the government's teat, let them do it. More people will defect to the Internet and will learn to engage in an active medium instead of being passively spoon-fed their news. The press release I linked to above condemns the government for their use of deceptive, TV-ready video news releases. How about condeming the media for lazily running this stuff instead of doing their jobs?