Part 1: How Did We Get Here from There?
Since 1896, when the Ochs-Sulzberger family took over the ownership of the New York Times, a curious little motto has been printed on the masthead of what is arguably the United States’ most influential daily newspaper. “All the News That’s Fit to Print” is a statement of both arrogance and intent of this historic journalistic medium.
But a lot has changed since 1896. For that matter, a lot has changed since 1996. Enter the Internet, and from the Internet has grown the blogosphere. The blogosphere is a rather crude title for the arena in which citizen journalists now have access to a huge readership that trolls through cyberspace, landing on websites and blogs like bumblebees landing on daisies. Internet visitors scurry from site to site with attention spans that make a hamster look like a three-toed sloth. Often driven to their destinations by the monster search engines owned by Yahoo and Google, some stay for a few seconds. Others perch and hang out for hours. With a few well-placed words in the Google box, we can find history, background, news, gossip, and garbage on anyone or anything in just a few mouse clicks.
The world, from schools of journalism to the legal profession, is still trying to figure out how to respond to this new form of information exchange. The rules aren’t the same for Internet bloggers and sites as they are for print and broadcast media. Spreading a falsehood can be a career-ender in the mainstream media—think Dan Rather. On the Internet, a falsehood just adds to the mystique and interest. Think Matt Drudge.