An April Fool’s Message To The Blogosphere
The largest of stumbling blocks—well, more like walls—lain in the blogger’s path to journalistic credibility has been…journalistic credibility. That concern alone has been the traditional (read: now ye olde school) journalist’s trumping objection, a turned up nose progressively shrinking and less relevant. Until today, April Fools Day.
You’ll have to be patient on this scenic journey with me. We’re headed somewhere, I promise. Whether it’s some place cool remains to be seen.
The high-minded academics out there, who have time to burn on deep thought, are already concerned about such lofty concepts like Google-ized reality—in brief, that Google’s dominance in the editorialized structuring of information leads to the more 18th Century idea that when people are presented with the same facts (or assumed facts) they will collectively reach the same conclusion—and even that Google’s continually updated time stamp is altering the nature of time-reality*.
Some things are just invented, materialized from andropausal fear of technological change, just like when people were concerned the blistering speed of the locomotive would spark nationwide forest fires.
Oh wait. That was made up, too.
But that doesn’t happen any more right? The mainstream press is too sharp for that. Well, maybe you should ask the LA Times and their Pulitzer Prize winner about where they got those Tupac FBI documents.
Give Dan Rather a call while you’re at it.
This isn’t an attack, or missive I suppose, on the shortcomings of the newsgathering business—talk about overdone. Like it’s hard to find good journalists** these days, it’s harder to find news sources to trust. My mother-in-law informs me she has to employ television, radio, and the Internet just to get a clearer picture of the truth. That might be because PR flacks outnumber reporters and reporters are pressed to produce more instead of better.
Just a reminder: More is almost never better.
With any luck my mother-in-law, on her triangulated truth quest, didn’t pull up TechMeme, Blogrunner or any other blog aggregation site this morning, which were littered with more BS than an Alabama stockyard.
This morning, the top story on TechMeme, usually a valuable (if TechCrunch-heavy) source of blogospheric conversations, was InfoWorld’s declaration that Yahoo finally accepted Microsoft’s acquisition bid. As I yawned and rubbed my eyes, I was already mentally preparing the writing staff for a topical blitzkrieg. Oh, wait. It’s April 1st, isn’t it? Never mind.
What you couldn’t see was that the article was pulled from an InfoWorld page of spoofs, or the second-page admission that it was all just a gag. Down the page was also Sir Richard Branson and the Billionaire Boys Club announcing a joint venture between Google and Virgin: to establish a Mars colony. Down farther was a litany of TechCrunch BS*** architected by Mike Arrington’s apparent love of the unofficial holiday.
Blogrunner, a New York Times project with human editors, also runs the headlines revealing TechCrunch’s lawsuit against Facebook, that TechCrunch is buying Tiger Beat, and that Richard Branson and the Google Guys are working on a Mars colony.
And it’s all very fun, of course—to a point. Gmail’s addition of an adjustable email timestamp was hilarious and deviously useful. But all that April tomfoolery**** can make it difficult, especially when aggregated into one place, to separate myth from reality.
Just as I concluded Yahoo hadn’t really accepted Microsoft’s bid, my boss relays the amens to his Twittered***** complaint:
"There are too many April Fools news articles in the tech news world today. It makes the online news industry look a bit amateurish."
Assuming every Twitter person is who they appear, Peter Leshaw Twitters back how he agrees, and Paula Hawk notes, "It does make for a difficult day not knowing what to believe."
So now we’re back to credibility, and why the mainstream, traditional media is reluctant to take this online revolution seriously, even as print bleeds subscribers and advertisers.
Or how about this instead of that tired old argument: Tell me again how this medium, arguably the most important and powerful invention since the printing press, will give credence and power to the voices of the small, the marginalized, the previously barred from entry—all that wonderful, lofty and possible rhetoric—when the same old powerbrokers will be the only ones believed?
"Amateurish" isn’t the word. "Childish" is better. It implies innocent playfulness, which is the driving force behind April Fools Day, and it implies perhaps unintended consequences for which it is difficult to lay blame, and for which readily should be forgiven. But when I open up Digg.com on or around April 1st, I want to believe a headline like "Good sexual intercourse last minutes, not hours"****** and "Science: monkeys were the first doctors."
Both, by the way, are, from what I can tell, real stories from a couple of days ago, as is this final farewell post to the blogosphere (he makes these often) from Original Blogger Dave Winer:
"What we used to call blogging is now just bullshit about recycled bullshit about recycled bullshit and on and on. Who bit who in the ass, never mind anything new or hard to comprehend, cause that’s not what we do. We aggregate eyeballs and clickthroughs and CPMs and god knows what else."
Aye, the truth comes out at last. Happy April Fools Day.
*If you believe that, I’ve got some business opportunities I’d like to speak with you about.
**A "good" journalist, by the way, might be synonymous with "seasoned" journalist. In a perfect world, experience trains the nose to more acutely smell a rat. Necessary skepticism is, after all, born with a red face. Give me a minute and I’ll find another metaphor.
***Yes, plenty of room for a cheap shot, a low blow, which I am currently restraining my fingers from producing just for meanness, which is never a good reason to do anything…discipline, Jason.
****I’m waiting for my entertainment writing gig from E! Network. Clearly, I have the gift for pithy puns. I’ve also been working on how to pretend what minor celebrities have for lunch is newsworthy, and how to be a sell-out rock star (I’m looking at you, Mark McGrath.)
*****I’m boycotting the vulgar "tweet" verb. I do not tweet. Neither should you. Not that twittering is much better.
******Oh never mind. I’m sure you get it.