Share ideas that inspire. FALLON PLANNERS (and co-conspirators) are freely invited to post trends, commentary, obscure ephemera and insightful rants regarding the experience of branding.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Word: Wikiality

A while back we had a ding-dong in a planning meeting over whether blogs etc were a good or better form of 4th estate than 'old media' news organizations.

While there are plenty of faults in newspapers and TV news or their online counterparts, I argued that they are at least to some degree accountable to standards of truth and proof outside of simply the current view of the majority.

But with comedic license, The Colbert Report does a much better job of pointing out the 1984 "Big Brother" potential of allowing wiki's etc to be our standard bearers for facts. Just because the majority says it, doesn't make it so! Which is why the idea that private individuals blogs providing news analysis will somehow police facts better than current news organizations is a very slipper slope. Great addition to the 4th estate but structurally incapable of performing the central task - It's just too sensitive to the whim of majority opinion with no in-built recourse for errors or lies.

Anyway this says it best:

"The Word: Wikiality"


AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

But the former police (traditional newsmedia) of what is "fact" and "truth" have failed us (the very popularity of Daily Show and Colbert Report are indicative of this widely accepted view). Wikis and blogs have evolved because we elect to construct our own truths without Katie Couric's and Dan Rather's skewed filter on "truth".

So while our own filters may be skewed, biased, and partial (remember, so was theirs) - at least they are our own. Let us police or own truths.

More so, Wikiality and Blog mentality is about GETTING OUR QUESTIONS ASKED...The skewed traditional media filter is one thing...But traditional media's staunch refusal to never ask the important questions that we are demanding is the core need gap that blogs are fulfilling.

NBC and Fox never asked the important (blantantly obvious) questions (let's take Iraq Weopons of Mass Destruction for an immediate example)...who needs "officials" and "coorespondents" to pose with mics and still stand silent?

Wiki's and Blogs are our attempt to get our questions out there and force a public shame and get an answer...finally. The civic re-engagement sparked by the blogosphere is the best working "democracy" we have seen since...hmn, ever?

I take Wikiality over Fox News any day. Though, I also take Steve Colbert over Katie Couric any day, too.

Marty W. said...

I was just about to write a poor-man's version of Aki's comment... and then I read his comment. Wholeheartedly agree. Colbert pokes fun, but a Wiki is just as self-policing as a democracy is. If the majority of voters believe in a candidate or cause, well, majority wins, and history is written by the winners...

So you might say that traditional media is fascist. I'd rather have my truth than Rather's.

Yes, democracy is alive and well again, and no country had to be invaded to secure it.

New York Punk said...

"...we elect to construct our own truths..." I dont believe this. Is this a bad episode of twilight zone?

As the saying goes..."everyone has the right to have an opinion but they dont have the right to have their own truth."

Established media, no matter how many stones are thrown at them , still have procedures and policies in place which ensures some standards. Where does it exists in blogs? Blogs makes us tribal, not open minded. Blogs are mostly opinions not facts (with the excpetion of sites like smoking gun or consumerist and the likes).

Lachlan said...

Don't get me wrong I love the additional comeback and discussion that blogs/wikis provide, But Dan Rather can be sacked. Can't do that to a blogger or a crowd of wiki-editors. And in most western countries the right to broadcast is licensed in such a way that Fox would get seriously challenged for their full-spin zone approach to 'news'.

But ultimately I'd always rather that the fourth estate role is played at least in major part by professional organizations that can be hurt legislatively or financially (ie by people not subscribing/buying/ placing ads) if they seriously transgress.

I also don't believe that constructing our own truth is a particularly good idea, just as the wiki word segment shows, that implicitly legitimises truth by popularity... remember that more people now believe that weapons of mass destruction were in Iraq than not, while ALL media have played a role in that idiocy, allowing popular rule to define truth would mean you're OK to accept that as fact, just because we self policed it to be so.

And as for accepting wikiailty over Fox. I'd argue that's exactly what Fox is, only taking the biases of one segment of US society and presenting them / spining them as fact, over and over until people think they are.

Beyond all of that, there's not really a replacement for how news is gathered and diseminated today. Take away traditional media and the AP etc... where do bloggers get their fodder? Erm...

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

for NY PUNK...the insistence that modern mainstream news conglomerates have "procedures and policies in place which ensures some standards", I'm not really seeing that.

When I watch my local news (owned by the big conglomerates) I see "1 Minute Around the World" and faux news interviews with the stars of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (fill in whatever network programing. Even Nightline has dubious news features such as "Real Medicine Behind Grey's Anatomy" and Dateline features hardhitters like "To Catch a Predator", EVERY SINGLE EPISODE NOW. Need I even discuss Fox News?

Where were the standards during "Weopons of Mass Destruction"? Noone asked anything hardhitting, or held anyone accountable. All these alleged standard-bearers simply nodded and posed with mics.

Network news coverage of Hurricane Katrina consisted of weathercasters overdramatising the rough winds (as they stand on the hotel balcony). No followup coverage of the ongoing aftermath (excluding Anderson Cooper).

I am not really seeing these "standards".

Most war correspondence happens from the balconies of the nearing hotels, not on the frontlines of any action.

The white house press corps? C'mon.

Surely, the opposite of your point has happened, STANDARDS HAVE CONSISTENTLY SLIPPED. Has independent journalism, such as blogs, saved us? Dunno. Dunno if that is really the point, either (as much as we proclaim it). The point may be that the success of blogs, wikis and Colbert really are more reflective of the failure of the mainstream "standards" to supply what we want. We are clearly saying we are dissatisfied with the products on offer. We are voicing out online in blogs because we are frustrated with what we have gotten otherwise. We clearly disagree with your rumored "standards" in the mainstream press. So mainstream news should listen and address our criticisms. Or they can stand around and whine about the game changing around them and continue to get ignored as we goto other sources (perhaps not better sources, but are they worse sources?).

Is the question whether new competitive products are "less quality" than old ones? Or should the question be when are you going to give us the products we're demanding?

So it really comes down to what are the mainstream outlets going to do to keep us? We are gravitating more to Colbert and RSS and little blogs than we are to Katie Couric and News At 5. Are they going to change the product and regain eyeballs and ad sales? Or insist on pushing the same irrelevant product and let Google and other upstarts take over mindshare?

New York Punk said...

For Aki Systems:

It’s hard for me talk about politics, media, and revolution while I’m sober. So please bear with me on this.

Standards haven’t completely slipped. If so, what was the standard? Where are we now? I think what we are witnessing is more ways to find mistakes either in media, government or politicians. Yes, blogs do deserve a great deal of credit for this.

You focus mainly on mainstream media as in television. I can’t and won’t put an argument to defend local news or News at 5. I equally detest them. There could be a simpler …the culprit is 24 hour news cycle. How do you feed a monster TWENTY FOUR / SEVEN? Hence the coverage of panda’s giving birth.

When I said “standards” I think of NY Times, Washington Post, New Yorker et al breaking stories right from Secret Prisons, wire tapping, monitoring money transfers, Abu Gharib, Gitmo abuse etc., All these stories are the byproduct of the “standards” they follow and have in place. Bottom line: for every Fox news channel, we also have a BBC or PBS.

While the media (liberal or conservative) portrayal of the Weapons of Mass Destruction story makes me uncomfortable…fact is THE GOVERNMENT IS TO BE BLAMED FOR LYING TO US. The media did question the claim. Perhaps not so strongly, but remember, the public opinion was strongly pro-bush that he was literally able to get away with anything. Damn, he even got re-elected!

Google does not report news. It has no reporters in the field. It has no active editorial board. What Google does best, as you might already know, is to catalog news gathered by the main stream media. So in essence, Google News wouldn’t exist without mainstream press.

There’s no game that’s changing around the media. The “media” has transformed from giving free air time to politicians to a power player. I use “media” hesitantly because it gives the impression that it’s one cohesive unit. It is not. Fox News called for prosecuting NY Times reporters! If we see fights like this…the ultimate winner will be the people…who can blog about it.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

I only referenced Google as a symbol of a definite game-change that is happening around traditional media. Such changes: on-demand lifestyle, self-selection, people power and social media, transparency and truth awareness. And some more things, but this isn't a client deck.

I agree with many of your points about many media outlets having and continuing journalistic standards. NY Times, NPR, many many others. I got your back there.



Sure, I'll even let you count that time you were stuck in the airport due to the flight delay and you bought a paper and actually read it twice, cuz you were so bored. If anybody said many yeses to the above, then, you are surely a rarity and an anamoly. Look to the mass newspaper layoffs and dwindling sales. NPR is not likely to be funded and maintained in the coming years - baring a mass blog movement to save it and put pressure on congress to make the funding a priority (cuz USA Today doesn't appear to be making that movement happen).

Again, for me, it isn't about either blogs and wikis, or traditional media. It is about needing both. It is about civic checks and balances. Only this new check and balance is people-led. The way it was supposed to be.

But moreso, if traditional media (even the few good ones) don't begin to embrace broader thinking, they will be stuck angrily protesting the "new fangled" changes as they wither and die. If all newspapers can do to respond is "let's put ads on our front page", or "let's put our newspaper on the screen", then they just don't get it and may deserve to die. If all the networks can think of no better solutions than to pay millions for prettier anchors to MC largely irrelevant news content...well, don't blame a blog. And don't blame readers and viewers as they look elsewhere or pick and choose what they want to form a working POV, or gravitate towards media that allows them a voice to participate. Innovate or die. Isn't that what CNN said when they took over from the old? Our turn.

Something about mainstream and traditional media's complaint attitude about us and the power we are finally gaining in the process reminds me of old silent film stars lamenting "the talkies" and big bands railing against rock and roll. Get over it. Evolve and join in. So, yeah, times are a changing on these guys. Clearly they neither like it, nor know what to do about it.

Firstly, stop blaming the people, listen to them. Blogs are mostly trying to tell them that we want (ed) it a different way - a way that keeps us at the center of the process. Newsguys seem to forget their prime directive - you work for us. The reason you're at the White House is to represent our voice (we can't afford a ticket to be present, so we sent the reporter). But the reporters are just not asking any questions and now re-read the gov't press release (worse, Grey's Anatomy's press release). Half of the reference knowledge that I require on a daily basis is never to be found in an Encyclopedia Brittanica. It is to be found on Wikepedia. I can't wait 10 years for the academics at Brittanica to validate what is going on...Traditional media is lacking this relevance piece. Get relevant.

New technologies are now allowing us to be present directly, so not much need for a surrogate. Or, not much need for an impotent surrogate with no POV and no courage to ask the damn questions. So fire those bums. Patch us in directly and let people ask questions, and ask questions of the questioners. And provide some answers, too.

Maybe it is not so absurd to think that people have some of the answers, too, if somebody listened (or even asked). Do people have all the answers? dunno. But clearly Presidents don't have all the answers either. And academics don't have all the answers. And news editors... So why not include people in the answer-building? Why is that so distasteful to some? Is our proper place to just consume and take, and their place is to be official decision-makers for us? Are you saying this was never intended for me to actually have a voice or a hand in building - just consume unquestioningly?

The new media is finally re-enabling town hall accountability. Why is anyone having a problem with that? And if this new media is so flawed and "mob" mentality, the best thing traditional media could do is give it some wise direction and participate, not grouse ineffectively on the sidelines.

New York Punk said...

Hello Aki,

First off, I sense a lateral tangent in the whole conversation right now. Let me try to frame it as I see it (of course, feel free to correct me).

I started with expressing my astonishment about “constructing our own truths”. I still maintain that position. Blogs are not subject to the accountability like an NYT or NPR news report. Blogs are mainly opinions, feedback and rantings. I agree we need those as well…but I don’t see any blog threatening any media establishment.

As for how many pay to read NYT or WSJ indulging in page one advertising – I am not a really that interested in their business models. Maybe the print edition will be limited to those who love the feel of paper and end up as a luxury product (try $10 for a copy). Maybe the Times Select feature will ultimately vanish and the excellent NY Times Website will be advertising supported. After all, Salon still lives! No matter what…they have survived for more than a century and I just don’t see them packing their bags and leaving anytime soon.

You say, I quote, “if traditional media (even the few good ones) don't begin to embrace broader thinking, they will be stuck angrily protesting the "new fangled" changes as they wither and die”

1. I don’t think blogs are the way to go for “broader thinking”
2. Some old media will have slow painful death. And so does some new media.
3. Come to think of it…what do you mean by “broader thinking” anyway? Are you suggesting that CNN, NYT, WSJ, BBC are thinking narrow? How so?

I am not too sure if “news guys work for us” is something I would see eye to eye with you …they are NOT public servants. Your tax money is not what pays their salary. I see a huge jump in your sweeping conclusion of asking traditional media to get relevant by way of the Britannica / Wikipedia example. This wrapped logic defies me. Also this is beside the point.

I wish to address your last point – the new media is predominantly an electronic version of print media (with some exceptions, of course). I can definitely see instances of town hall accountability, but I’ve seen it only after the issues are picked up by traditional media. Not to undermine new media, but they certainly don’t deserve more respect than old media.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

Ok, let's stick with the "constructing our own truths" debate.

At one point in our history, 3 networks told us a national truth. We didn't write it, we didn't often agree with it, but it was broadcast into our homes and heads and we essentially followed it. Later in history a bunch of cable networks jumped in...but as with newspapers before them, they were all owned by the same 6 guys who, essentially, told us a similar world view. A finite amount of editors and owners decided what war was important for us to be concerned about, and what "facts" we should know. My point, "news" is biased and flawed at the outset. We could freely grouse about things at our dinner tables...we could even write a letter to the editor (maybe on a good day it would get published) but largely, noone heard us, noone cared.

Fast-forward to today where all manner of social media allows us to spread the word (any word of our own choosing) to more people across more borders faster...and the impact of that spread can be measured and seen. Suddenly, people may question the gods of news, such as Dan Rather. And get him fired. Or, we may fell networks by simply refusing to watch, read, buy. We may go elsewhere for our info. We may have input and filter what we receive, and hundreds and thousands may read us filtering them. By this, we are forming our own truths.

We don't read one journal anymore (nor do we pay for them), but we read 30, daily. That is surely a threat to the traditional way of dispensing info. It is more importantly, a threat to how you get paid for dispensing info. The networks (any of them) exist to get paid, they provide news as only one form of content off which to get paid. If we aren't looking to their news to get info, they can't get paid off of us. Suddenly, they have to "reformat", rethink, and all but ask us what we want (if they are smart). Or not. They can (and many do) still keep showing the same program in the same format, and not have anyone watching.

So while you may literally be correct in that newsmen are not public officials, they are not beholden to us...they are beholden to consumers in the end. Cuz if we don't like, we don't buy. And if we don't buy, the big conglomerate says, lay off all the excess. Or improve the product. No company is obligated to listen to consumers. But eventually, the cash register rules out. And we have alternative products (finally) we will buy according to what we need, not according to what is available.

To say that blogs (and social media) are not threatening the livelihood of traditional media seems ill-informed, really. Check the declines in TV spending and viewing, check the rises in internet spending and viewing. But for one very personal example, this very debate we're having is between two marketers who will (one of us at least) make recommendations that more of our clients put their big ol' money in social media over traditional media. This debate is not just about a cool blog to read in the is soon to be about where money gets placed and what we believe is better in the long run for our audience attention-spans. My recommendation is clear from reading. If that ain't a threat to traditional platforms, what is?

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

And yeah, we're prob a bit off-course from the initial debate...which (as I saw it) was that Wikiality is so dangerous because people aren't necessarily qualified to co-author history, news, or "truth".

The only counter that matters (from me) is that little more qualifies news "officials" to author our history, news, or "truth"...and any history, news, or "truth" that does not allow for the voice of the people is not democracy.

We want a democracy. We want Wikiality.

And, really, it is here. Not going anywhere. It is the new normal. So use it, traditional media. Or don't. But know that is our own empowered view towards traditional media, too.

New York Punk said...

Hello Aki,

First off, I am not in too much disagreement with you on the merits of new / social media and the opportunity it provides us to express dissent / opinion / or just have fun. What concerns me is the hype. It might turn out to be not a hype at all in the longer run, but as i see it now, blogs have a long way to go.

I did come across this piece, which I am sure will be of interest to you. I dont agree with all of what he says...

If you are reading 30 sources, chnces are you are not "constructing your own truths".

For instance, lets take the news business. There were 3. Now there are 6. Can you say one strictly online news orgnization? Maybe we'll see that in future. But my point was, we definitely need both. Also, I expect to see a crossover - trained journalist switching to strictly online gigs.

On a side note, its my personal belief that the online community did a diservice to the public with the Dan Rather story. Despite the fake documents, the main point was BUSH LIED. Instead of talking about it, the debate became about some silly docs which doesnt really matter in the larger realm of things.

We already have democracy with out without wikipedia's of the world. Prrotesting in the street, distrubuting opinion materials are all democratic expressions. Granted, the new media makes it easy/more impactful/or do stuff in a larger scale. But I see the new media as a product of democracy rather than the one that will bring in democracy. Case in point, China, despite hundreds of millions of users, still censor/jail dissenters and whats worse, our own companies cooperate with them.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

Now if we can only find a way to MONETIZE all this rich debate!

And to that point, you're really right.

Blogs still have a long way to go.