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The Media

Net: Now Our Most Serious News Medium? 382

Big stories change media. Radio's high-water mark was World War II, and TV news came of age after John F. Kennedy's assassination. Elvis and his death gave birth to modern mass-marketed tabloid media. Increasingly, it appears the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the shooting war that began last night have made more distinct another evolutionary leap in information: the Net is emerging as our most serious communications medium and clearly the freest and most diverse. Conventional journalists are still obsessed with hackers and pornographers; still fuss about whether the Net is safe or factual. But increasingly, they steer readers to their websites for more in-depth information and conversation. When I appeared on a public radio program recently, the interviewer asked me to comment on reports that the Net was the source of epidemic "misinformation" about the terrorist attacks. The question was almost startlingly retro.

Even heads of state get the significance of the Net these days. So-called "serious" journalists had been dumping every imaginable rumor - that the State Department had blown up, that crop-dusting planes were about to shower us with anthrax live on the air without any filtering or substantiation. It seemed to me that, unlike any previous big story, the Net had become the place where people were going for more accurate information -- including all kinds of content unavailable in most traditional media.

Who would ever have thought that George W. Bush would do his primary fund-raising appeal before Congress and the public by announcing a url: libertyunite.org? Or that British Prime Minister Tony Blair would publish the evidence against Osama Bin-Laden on a government Web site? Bush's advisers grasped the fund-raising potential of the Net, and Blair realized it is a new way to reach the world, including remote, even hostile corners.

The Net was not only the source of heavy traffic to conventional news sites like Cnn.com, Usatoday.com or the Washington Post/New York Times sites. Literally thousands of new sites sprouted information -- there are way too many to list here -- offering information on the tragedy itself and its survivors, working for disaster relief, presenting discussions about the Taliban and Afghanistan, Islam, Arab resentment against the United States.These news sites were a source of clarity and accuracy for many millions of people, puzzled or frightened by alarmist reports on TV and elsewhere. People posted video online from the disaster site, and broke important news online of the plane attacks, the building's collapse, and the rescue. It were these accounts that reported for the first time that planes had had hit the tower, that the towers had fallen, that there there were likely to be few survivors in the rubble. Two sites I saw were devoted to airline passengers stranded in hotel rooms all over the country seeking information on alternative forms of travel. And it was on the Net, on the Onion's terrific site that the first witty, tasteful and necessary media and political spoofs of the response to the tragedy were pulled off.

Many more sites devoted themselves to personal testimony: from people who saw the disaster, who were sending e-mail news dispatches to friends, who sought to clarify rumors or post accounts, who needed to discuss how they felt about the new "war."

Transcripts of 911 calls from the World Trade Center are posted online, as are the transcripts of reports by Islamic and Arab TV news organizations. This new kind of personal reporting offers an invaluable archive of a global tragedy. In the understandable patriotic frenzy that followed the attacks, it was on the Net that dissenters, peace activists and privacy advocates first surfaced, not the mainstream media. The Net has thus become a bulwark against the one dimensional view of events and the world that characterize Big Media. All points of view appeared, and instantly.

This kind of in-depth discussion and information was rarely available in conventional media -- on CNN and other sites, activists in Arab nations directly debated and talked with Americans, for example, something never before possible in media, which has neither the air time, space, resources, or inclination. Newspapers publish much too infrequently to compete seriously for long on a breaking story like this, with either TV or the Net. (An exception: localized cases like New York or Washington, where coverage in daily papers, particularly the New York Times and The Washington Post, was important and thorough).

Big media, already fragmenting, appears to be dividing this way:

  • Commercial TV is a medium of images and entertainment. Nobody, certainly not the Net at this point, can compete with TV's ability to present powerful imagery live, from the plane attacks to speeches before Congress to Ground Zero to the aftermath to global reaction and soon, military conflict. In fact, TV arguably transmits powerful images too often and for too long, creating an emotional, almost hysterical climate around big stories even when there?s no news to report.

  • Cable TV is the medium of political argument and confrontation. Channels like Fox, CNN and MSNBC are institutional media, the place where politicians and lobbyists gather to press their viewpoints, talk indirectly with other leaders elsewhere, share insider information and float options and ideas. These media are striking in their overwhelming tilt towards officials, bureaucrats, lobbyists, politicians and academics. You can watch them for days and not hear from average people, beyond the silly handful of calls or e-mails they occasionally cite.

  • The Net offers not only breaking news -- mainstream media companies all have sophisticated websites -- but is the medium of individual expression and additional, more in depth information. Instant message systems played a crucial role in transmitting information, both accurate and false, especially in and near the disaster sites. IM will almost surely become a dominant and significant information source in the future, especially as it moves beyond college campuses and networked companies.

But for all the mainstream media phobias about the dangerous or irresponsible Net, it's seemed increasingly clear in the weeks since the attacks that the Net has become our most serious medium, the only one that offers information consumers breaking news and discussions, alternative points of view. Sadly, the Net seems to be the favored medium of the terrorists who planned the attacks as well. (Countless sites sprung up to detail what Islam is really about, and how diverse opinions in the Arab world are at play in this disaster).

It's the medium of personal expression -- people e-mailed friends and relatives to tell them they were okay, to get relief information, to volunteer time and money. And, of course, unlike conventional media, which still give ordinary citizens little or no opportunity to participate, the Net is architecturally and viscerally interactive. Feedback and individual opinion are not ghettoized in op-ed pages or in a handful of "we-want-to-hear-from-you" (no, they don't) phone calls, but are an integral part of Net information dispersal, it's core.

The Net has had its ups and downs in recent months. It's still beset by intrusive regulators, eager law enforcement officials and greedy dot.com entrepreneurs and corporate interests who want its profits but not its values. It's still going through a shaky phase economically. But the WTC attacks remind us of the extraordinary openness, open distribution of information and sense of community-building that are the heart of the wired world's promise.

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Net: Now Our Most Serious News Medium?

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  • by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:05PM (#2415724) Homepage Journal
    ... because most people were stuck at their desks and had no radio nearby (or was disruptive to other employees). Once we got a a TV in a conference room, people dropped the net for TV. You see, the net can be hacked, and articles found on the net (unless they are from reliable news sources, a la cnn, ap, reuters) aren't very trusted. TV is still the most reliable and trusted media.
    • by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:16PM (#2415799) Homepage
      Ironically, thats why its not as good as the Net.

      People may believe its 'trusted', but that doesn't change the simple fact that TV News is BIG BIG business, and totally controlled .. you're not getting the news, you're getting a product. And its no wonder people 'trust' or 'like' it more than the Net, for the most part. It's packaged carefully, and full of the emotional hyperbole that totally renders any attempt to deal with events in an objective manner. Milk is better for you than Coke, but which one sells more?
      • ummm...a lot of sites are run by big business as well. Think CNN, MSNBC and such.

        The commercialization of the Internet has led to many of the same problems as more traditional media, like TV.
      • Hardly insightful. I believe I saw a similar scenario on the X-Files.

        OK, Muldner, you can chill out now.

      • Milk is better for you than Coke, but which one sells more?

        This surprised me. I know it's a rhetorical question, but in 2000, milk actually sold more, with 6.5 billion gallons, than Classic Coke, with 2 billion cases (two gallons/case). Coca-Cola soft drinks totalled sell more (4.3 billion cases) than milk, however. And like some other jerk pointed out, milk is probably not better for you than Coke. They're both pretty bad. :-)

        http://www.beverage-digest.com/editorial/010215s.p hp [beverage-digest.com]
        http://web.northscape.com/content/gfherald/2001/08 /06/agweek/806MILK.htm [northscape.com]

      • Milk may or not be all that good for adult people. You may have been coopted by the dairy industry. Check out http://www.notmilk.com/ or pick up a copy of Diet for a New America.

        Notice that 1) I have directed you towards a website 2) that undermines big business 3) and offer an alternative that is actually a book (the big picture).

        Television does none of these things very well. And milk is bad for you.
      • by corky6921 ( 240602 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @02:26PM (#2416496) Homepage
        Did you know that 70% of the world's population is lactose intolerant [azcentral.com]?

        Milk is not better for you than Coke, because, from an evolutionary standpoint, mammals have internal mechanisms that prevent them from properly digesting lactose after they are a certain age. It's a natural weaning process. This is discussed in most evolution/natural science college classes. The reason 30% of our population is able to digest milk is that that percentage of the population had ancestors in northern Europe who were goat herders -- those ancestors needed to be able to digest milk at any time. Yes, almost all of the people who are able to digest lots of milk at any age are white and originally from Europe.

        The milk commercials, however, neglect to tell people this, and instead label the vast majority of our population "lactose intolerant", like it's some kind of disease or something. (They even sell a "cure" in the form of Lactaid and other pills!) Americans/Europeans also don't often realize that sending milk in CARE packages to other countries makes people sick more often than not.

        I know this is a little offtopic, but it's an important fact that most people don't realize, and the brainwashing of those damned milk commercials doesn't help. I would also like to state that I agree with the poster's main point. The commercials for milk even prove it: TV sells you what you want to hear and not necessarily what is the truth.

    • Totally Agree (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dimer0 ( 461593 )
      Once I could get my hands on CNN Television, I didn't even go near my computer the rest of the day.. Almost the whole week. :-) It was near impossible to get information from any of the major news sites during the crisis..

      And, I wouldn't say the net is full of good information either. Things I've heard that are complete crap from the net in the past month:

      Arab man tells girlfriend not to go to malls on Halloween. Nope. [snopes2.com]

      Go outside and light a candle - we're gunna be photographed by satellites! Nope. [snopes2.com]

      Nostradamous predicted all of this! The end is near! Morons. [snopes2.com]

      Clear Channel Communications banned playing certain songs (LET THE BODIES HIT THE FLOOR, w00t!) on the radio.. Not quite. [snopes2.com]

      Yea, if I want respectable news coverage, I'd sure as hell go to the net. FULL OF IT. When the neighbor lady down the street who starts rumors like these gets exposure to millions of readers, emm, .. I think I'll stick to television.

      • When the neighbor lady down the street who starts rumors like these gets exposure to millions of readers, emm, .. I think I'll stick to television.

        Yet is it so ironic that the way you debunked every one of those statements is by linking to information on another web site. (Not that I blame you, just an observation)

        On a side note, snopes2.com claims to have tracked down the original author of the arab girlfriend email, and she stands by her story...to be continued I guess.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Never mind the fact that that the big news agencies are admitting to filtering out anything that may seem pro-afghan. At the request of the government.

      But I guess it's only government propaganda if it ain't the US of A

    • by Znork ( 31774 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:23PM (#2415846)
      You trust TV?

      Personally, I dont think I've ever seen a TV newscast (or general newspaper article) about anything where I have knowledge about the subject where they get it right. I suspect the same is true about the subjects where I do not have knowledge, which means they likely dont get anything right. At best there is massive omissions, at worst there are huge amounts of factual errors.

      Apart from that most mainstream media is rather biased (of course, if we get our news only from the mainstream media we dont realize this and we start believing that they are reporting the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth, which is the whole idea behind propaganda). Bias means it isnt reliable or trustworthy, since you get only the parts of the story that promote the media interests point of view.

      Streamlining ala cnn, ap, reuters is also bad, since the mainstream media is just spewing the same thing (usually with the same wording!) a large number of times. Biased unreliable news with factual errors repeated on many channels many times makes it _appear_ more true, but it doesnt make it more true.

      The net has one large advantage. You can find many different viewpoints, all of which may range from idiotic to completely kooky, but here at least you _know_ you are dealing with unreliable newssources and you can sift through them with that in mind.

      TV appears to be more anchored in reality than the average slashdot comment. But that's what you get when you present put money and control behind the presentation. And the appearance is just appearance.

      • The net has one large advantage. You can find many different viewpoints, all of which may range from idiotic to completely kooky, but here at least you _know_ you are dealing with unreliable newssources and you can sift through them with that in mind.
        Exactly. On TV you mostly get the exact same story, but on different stations. For example, we all know Slashdot is biased to Linux, Open Source, etc. so we can all go to Kuro5hin, Advogato, or what have you to get a different (and usually more informed) perspective.

        TV is good because it offers yet another needed perspective, but you really have to be careful I believe. A viewer has to keep in mind that TV news is dramatized to keep ratings high. While internet news is dramatized also (Slashdot is, IMO, very bad at this), there are many more sites (channels) to choose from.

        As for actually believing the perspectives you see on the internet (i.e. Usenet, this message board, etc.), well, uhm ... I'm still trying to figure that one out myself. I guess it boils down to which religion (point of view) has the most subscribers in the end.

        Another point I'd like to add: TV is an _entertainment_ medium. Sad as it is, I don't believe people were watching planes fly into the WTC towers because they needed to know that information. It was exciting; it was something _new_. If you asked a random group of people in America before Sept. 11th if they knew where Afghanistan was (or if they even knew it was a country) or if they knew Osama bin Laden, most likely over half would not have a clue who or what either was. Even if they lived in NYC during 1993. Some who worked in the WTC in '93 probably didn't know about either after the bombing. The point is: people don't _need_ to know about worldly events. For the most part, average people cannot control events or have any say in world issues. That same gut wrenching feeling people have after they saw Sept. 11th events is similar to the gut wrenching feeling I guess Friends' fans would have after they found out the show is ending. Just knowing people have died is no reason to get emotional and go flag waving. Americans are doing that because of the TV soap opera called "news." You won't find people rallying together to stop cigarette companies or automakers, even if the statistics are significantly higher than death from terrorism. Something about jetliners flying into enormous buildings going 100's of mph makes people more emotional than seeing someone puffing a cig. *Yawn* You mean I gotta wait 15 more years for this guy to die?

        A clear example of this _is_ Sept. 11th. When everyone saw the WTC towers hit by the jets and then saw the Pentagon hit by a jet. Pentagon? *Yawn* Just a few hundred died. Lets switch back to watching the WTC action. When the 4th plane went into the ground at, um, where was that again? I don't know. Haven't heard anything else about it on the news.. (And don't tell me you didn't sense just a _little_ more importance in the WTC than the Pentagon attack.. I know I sure got the feeling that the Pentagon was "ho-hum" after watching NBC/CNN news).
    • You see, the net can be hacked, and articles found on the net (unless they are from reliable news sources, a la cnn, ap, reuters) aren't very trusted. TV is still the most reliable and trusted media.

      Oh give me a break. TV is a tool of large corporate government agencies. It doesn't NEED to be hacked. It is inherently unreliable.

      Trust and reliability issues aside, TV is NOTORIOUSLY full of fluff. On Sept 11 they spent all friekin day showing the same damn imagines OVER and OVER again. Rarely providing new information. The information it does provide is so charged with the overly emotional imagery. its almost useless. TV is NOT a good place to get information. Any written media is much better. Newspapers provide long articles detailing information and data. Not that it is perfect, but I will take written news over TV any day. And the 'net is that much better than newspapers because it is late breaking and interactive.

      -matthew

    • > TV is still the most reliable and trusted media.

      This is a purely relative stance. And one that should not be propagated as accurate.

      I, for one, listened to the news on television and found it repetitive and void. Trusted sites like CNN, BBC, Slashdot, and a handful of other sites were far more reliable in the timely nature of their releases and the quality of information. There were a few rumors that got posted, there were retractions once verification was made. But by large I heard more speculative and unsubstantiated rumors through television (and via word of mouth) then I did on the net. It got to the point that I stopped watching TV and listening to people, and just started reading and refeshing...

      On top of that, if I really wanted to know what was going on, there were repeaters of the local police scanners set up in various sites streaming everything from Real Audio to MP3. I got to hear first hand as traffic jams were piling up in DC and people were getting out and leaving their cars in the middle of the street. I was horrified to know that with all of this happening, there were still people being held up at ATM's and other petty crimes taking place.

      The amount of information availible, and its quality were astounding. It's like normal periodicals though, you don't go to the grocery store to read hard news. On the internet, you don't go to drudgereport.com to get accurate updates of world news.

      It ultimately boils down to the fact that news is only as accurate and effective as the receptical it's stored in. If that recepticle wears the vacent stare of a slobbering idiot, you have to consider the source. And to be perfectly frank, after a few hours of TV news, that's exactly what the anchors looked like as they struggled to say anything relevant.
    • Right answer, but wrong justification.

      I used the net on September 11 for exactly the reason you described. At my office, we had a TV, but no cable or antenna: the television was used strictly for videoconferences. So, we had a colleague at another site pipe us the CNN feed over the video link. (Gotta love fat pipe).

      The big story about the net as a source of information was how badly it failed in the few hours after the attacks: every major news site was utterly swamped, with the exception of Slashdot - and that's probably because most people were turning to /. as a last resort. I was much less worried about CNN being hacked than I was about not being able to see it at all.

      On the plus side: Blogger [blogger.com], and web logs in general, was priceless to me in keeping track of my friends. The first indication I had that my NYC friends weren't hurt in the attack was seeing them update their personal pages.
  • Net weakness (Score:2, Informative)

    by jilbert ( 520628 )
    I'd say the crisis showed a weakness in the
    current web server model. If the whole world
    wants to connect to CNN, there's no way it
    can handle the load.

    How do we get round this?

    Better caching?

    Broadcast protocols?
    • Re:Net weakness (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Sniser ( 325496 )
      I think the fact that so many folks went to CNN shows a weakness in the current people model...
    • Perhaps, in the wake of what was, effectively, a DDOS attack on September 11, sites like CNN, FoxNews, and MSNBC (not to mention the NYTimes, Boston Globe etc.) will see that P2P protocols can come in handy in this environment.

      The biggest thing required for this to work would be a P2P client that could render HTML. MD5 hashes could provide versioning. The only significant drawback to this approach is the banner ads (the same ad will be shown to everybody), but if Gnutella were the underlying protocol, an estimate of the number of impressions received could be derived from the number of searches that hit a monitoring server. Server-generated content wouldn't work in these instances, though.

    • Its been over two years since most of the major sites went with redundant colos, load balancing switches, and content cache networks.

      In fact, the key benefit of Akamai and other content caches is to help flatten out spikes (they don't generally improve static content requests when traffic is normal).

  • While the net is a great source for information, it can also be a great source for disinformation.

    Bert and Osama, anyone?

    (yes, that photo was a joke, but other stories and photos that purport to be authentic may not always be so)
  • Conventional journalists ... steer readers to their websites for more in-depth information and conversation.

    they steer you to their websites not because they think the web is the be-all that you do, it's so that they can segment their market in a way that's similar to price-discrimination. They want to keep the broadcast feed general interest to maintain the largest number of eyeballs, and yet they don't want to lose the special interest junkies. So they direct the special interest junkies to the website (better than having them change channels) and the main-show can move on before the average viewer gets bored.

    BTW, it was at this point that I got bored with the Katz-feed and didn't read any further.

  • What about ... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:08PM (#2415747) Journal
    What about the fact that every major news site in the U.S. and Canada collapsed under the load of Sept. 11? It was several hours before CNN was back up, and then in a bandwidth-limited form. I got most of my info from the BBC and Australian sites, and even those were very heavily loaded. Meanwhile, anywhere that there was a TV on Sept. 11 was tuned to CNN, which provided the breaking news as it happened -- and since that date, the principals have all appeared on television to describe their positions, not the internet. It seems premature to proclaim a new era of Internet news reporting.
    • Re:What about ... (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Stonehand ( 71085 )
      Maybe more people in the US think of CNN first because they're familiar with 'em. I doubt that BBC programming has nearly as high market penetration as does CNN here.

      The BBC site has been head-and-shoulders above CNN, or the Big Three US broadcasting networks, in terms of quality reporting (e.g. not obsessing with "Terror and Love" human-interest stories, generally avoiding rumor-mongering, and bothering to go into depth where useful).
    • During WWII, Information about what really happened during and before Pearl Harbor was very restricted. Similar instances include the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

      Regardless what you beleive about these and other incidents, what is happening now is that the speed of communication through the net and other resources is much faster. Alot of details that would have fallen between the cracks are now becoming much more widely known. In an earlier age, the Anti Terrorist bills would have likely passed without much comment. Not today.

      The behind the scenes connections of the major players are also widely available. Given the critical eye of many people, it is going to be more difficult to get a fast one by the public. It may still be possible, but it will not be as easy.

      Sadly the majority of people still rely on just TV, etc for News. But the information is still available. And people go to the net for the other details that you do not see elsewhere.

      Personally, I like collecting the odd bits of trivia. It makes for a more complete picture in the long run.

    • What about the fact that every major news site in the U.S. and Canada collapsed under the load of Sept. 11?

      First: Those were just the net outlets of the mainstream media - TV news networks, newspapers, etc. They do NOT represent the net news outlets.

      Second: Some purely net news outlets stayed up. For instance, the Drudge Report had NO trouble the whole time - and even when a site Drudge cited got saturated you could usually get the thrust of the story from the headline on the link. Slashdot hung in there quite well. (I suspect others did, too, but I had no need for them given those two.)

      Third: The operators of ALL the important sites, major media and pure net, were on the ball and upgraded the site's response within a few hours. The next time there's a major story like this they'll be ready. (History repeats: This is a recap of the development of modern TV disaster coverage, which was essentially invented and shaken out during the days after the John Kennedy assasination.)
    • As far as load and all this sudden notice of the net as a serious source of information. Am I the only one who remembers earlier crushes on www.cnn.com, such as when the Heaven's Gate cult put on their Nikes, ate some pudding and hitched their metaphysical wagon to Hal-Bopp?


      I still view news on the net as a growing with room for all kinds. [cruzio.com]

  • by PinkStainlessTail ( 469560 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:09PM (#2415748) Homepage
    Here's the link to the evidence [pm.gov.uk] that Katz mentioned. Not exactly as earth shattering as it sounded. I think I've heard most of this in non-net media.

  • You get a lot of heat around here, but this article is spot on. Given the roles of commercial and cable TV, what does it mean that the Net is the outlet for public opinion? Does it imply power to the people? What's the rub?
  • Email, not WWW news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dirtyhippie ( 259852 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:12PM (#2415770) Homepage
    As a "cyber-journalist" I suppose it is understandable that you laud the WWW as the great new thing (TM)... But mainstream WWW sites were totally unreachable (Slashdot was an exception, but most people don't know slashdot, they know msnbc.com and abcnews.com). I would argue that the real landmark was email, which came through and proved its worth that day. When the phone systems collapsed thousands, if not millions of people frantically got in touch with loved ones to inform them of their safety via email (after 4 hours of "circuit not available" messages, I eventually contacted both my sister and my cousin this way).
    • But mainstream WWW sites were totally unreachable

      That is bullshit. Yahoo kept chugging along delivering news. They didn't skip a beat.

      You lost credibility the moment you lauded /. for its uptime.

      • That's probably because it's not littered with huge Javascripts, purty looking graphics and asp files. Yahoo KNOW's how to make a site accessible to ALL and not just those with cable modems and T-1's at their disposal.
      • The mainstream doesn't exactly think of Yahoo when they think of news. In fact, I spend quite a bit of time online and at many different sites, and *I* didn't think to check Yahoo on Sept 11 when CNN, MSNBC, and the other biggies weren't responding.
  • Ummm. No. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zpengo ( 99887 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:13PM (#2415775) Homepage
    Am I the only person who finds it incredibly ironic that an article like this would appear on one of the most random, poorly-researched, redundant, late and haphazard news sites on the net?

    Don't get me wrong, I love Slashdot, but as an example of the independent news the Net has to offer, one can't help but come to the conclusion that CNN and its TV-based family will continue to be the norm for a long, long time.

    September 11th was a great example of this. When the fit really hit the shan, all the major news sites got slammed, failed, and people went back to watching CNN, MSNBC, or whatever.

    Yes, there are plenty of inspirational stories of independent websites helping to feed the public's quest for more information, but these are in the minority. Joe Sixpack and his grandmother still relied on good ol' television to find out what happened.

    Is the net a serious news source. Certainly not. Not yet anyway.

    • Re:Ummm. No. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by poincaraux ( 114797 )
      "Is the net a serious news source. Certainly not."

      This is not quite true. Take, for example, Salon [salon.com]. A number of people may be upset that they've started charging for quite a bit of their content now, but the fact remains that they have some of the best coverage that I've seen of recent events.

      -Henri

      P.S. I'm impressed that Salon made it so long without charging. They still make *half* of their money from ads. That's pretty impressive.

    • When the fit really hit the shan, all the major news sites got slammed, failed, and people went back to watching CNN, MSNBC, or whatever.

      By "all the major news sites", I take it you mean cnn.com, msnbc.com, or whatever?
    • Don't get me wrong, I love Slashdot, but as an example of the independent news the Net has to offer, one can't help but come to the conclusion that CNN and its TV-based family will continue to be the norm for a long, long time.

      Yeah, I think where Katz misses the boat is that he doesn't realize that the Net exceeds people's expectations because those expectations are so low. I browse with the expectation that 95% of what I read is nonsense and between trusted sources, my own judgement and some skepticism, learn an enormous amount. But which would you trust more for sold information on a given issue -- a single CNN or NYT piece or a single Slashdot or Usenet post.

      September 11th was a great example of this. When the fit really hit the shan, all the major news sites got slammed, failed, and people went back to watching CNN, MSNBC, or whatever.

      A lot of us were at work without a TV or radio and got a steady stream of second-hand information through Slashdot.

      • > But which would you trust more for sold information on a
        > given issue -- a single CNN or NYT piece or a single Slashdot or Usenet post.


        Actually, your point before this takes the power out of this statement. It's the very fact that you can read a single post or article on the 'Net, then immediately (usually within five or ten minutes) corroborate or falsify that story or post, that makes it trustable. With a NYT piece, it's likely that the writer went to some effort to verify what's written, but once it's out there there's no easy way for me to verify it for myself.

        That is, unless I get on the 'Net to check it.

        Virg
    • I view Slashdot as a resource, not really news, but just general source of prodding on technical stuff which may be of interest, informational stuff and to a lesser degree entertainment.


      The relevation that CNN really came of age was when it was reported that Saddam Hussein was following the actions taken against his own country, Iraq, up to and during the Gulf War. Thing is, CNN had come to be a serious source and nobody really noticed it until they collectively did.


      Now the same thing Jon is observing about the net, and he's certainly not the first, but it's a well thoughout and collected pile of information, which reveals that the net, indeed, is the way most americans, if not citizens of the world (Taliban included) get their information.


      Considering this is a time of war, expect not just the filtering of Bin Laden tapes voluntarily done by TV networks, but expect something along those lines on the net, although if Al Jazeera is expected to be a tool of Al Qeada (however you spell it) for relaying instructions to sleepers, why not expect the net? What would be so tricky about these people putting up a site with coded messages, etc? For all we know, slashdot may be used as a vehicle, why not?


      That some countries (China, Iran) see fit to filter or monitor the surfing habits and exchanges over the net of their citizens should be very telling, as oppressive regimes have long understood that to maintain control you have to control the media and the net certainly is and has been a part.

  • by WillSeattle ( 239206 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:13PM (#2415776) Homepage
    The reality is not as you describe it, Jon.

    [disregarding the flashing banner from Planet Hard Drive - who will never get my business now ...]

    The reality is that we still depend on the radio for news in cars and when we wake up. We still look to TV for full coverage. We use the Net because we're not allowed to have the other two at work.

    But we do use the Net to spread misinformation, rumors, and to get all paranoid. When we're not using call-in talk shows on the radio and TV. It looks more beleivable on the PC monitor than when we phone up and people can tell by our rushed voices that we're loonies.

    There are always nutsos out there. Most of the time they're not dangerous, so long as you keep them away from sharp things.


  • The net is little more than the buzz of a large virtual crowd, with louder presences being occupied by well-funded organizations, the same well-funded organizations that promulgate traditional media.

    The real problem is extracting signal from crowd noise.

    It requires a great deal of diligence and effort to extract the rational and the truthful from the crowd noise.

    Plus, once it's done, it's not sufficiently appealing from a marketing perspective to justify placing it in a louder volume forum.

    Let's all just go wallow in the infotainment just like peasants everywhere!

  • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:13PM (#2415779) Journal
    One advantage of the net you forgot to mention: the very fact that many people harbor suspicion of the content increases its value.

    If something is printed in the New York Times, or broadcast on CNN, it is much more likely to pass without critical evaluation than something that is posted on the web. "I saw it on the web" is almost a synonym for "it may be true; I want to get more data, cross check some facts." To my mind, that is a very valuable for new media in a free society, especially one that intends to stay free.

    -- MarkusQ

  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:14PM (#2415782) Homepage Journal
    It's true that the Net offers better immediate news than TV and radio (with the possible exception of NPR) these days. But for long-term, in-depth analysis, I still rely on that oh-so-retro source, the newspaper, for three reasons:

    1. There's a level of fact-checking in print journalism that doesn't exist in any other news source. I'm not claiming that newspaper reporters never make mistakes, by any means, but I get the strong feeling that the information they provide is more accurate by an order of magnitude than anything that comes out of my TV, radio, or computer.

    2. Generally, when we commit words to paper, we feel that they have more import than if we speak them or type them on a computer, and thus we are more careful about what we say. Newspaper articles in the wake of the 11 September attacks were much less overheated and emotional than reporting from any other source.

    3. Similarly, reading something on paper is a fundamentally different experience from hearing it on the radio, watching it on TV, or reading it on screen. I can read and reread at my own pace, thinking carefully about the information I'm taking in, which I can't do with CNN. And newspapers hold my attention, unlike the Net where something different is only a mouse click away.

    Don't get me wrong here -- I very much like the instant access to information I get on the Net, and I do get an increasing amount of my information there. But until both Net journalism and the experience of receiving it are up to print standards -- and they aren't, by a long shot -- the newspaper will remain my primary source for the information I use to shape my views on world events.
    • I agree with you. It's a question of trust. I normally look at traditional news sources with grains of salt, but I trust very little information that I get on the net that isn't from the traditional news sources.

      One thing that net has allowed is for the traditional news sources to be able to go even more in-depth than they do in their print pubs.

      I really want to put in a plug for the link I have in my .sig. It's a Newsweek series of articles that are just really excellent as far as giving in-depth information about the Middle East. Why do they hate us? [msnbc.com]. Truly a great piece of well-researched journalism.

      P.S. Someone told me they had trouble getting to the site. I suspect that certain Netscape versions may have problems. It's worth firing up IE to check it out.

    • but I get the strong feeling that the information they provide is more accurate by an order of magnitude than anything that comes out of my TV, radio, or computer.

      So you have no real idea if this is correct? many people have the feeling that TV is more accurate.
  • by Ars-Fartsica ( 166957 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:14PM (#2415784)
    1: Internet - everything print can do, but faster and more featureful.


    2: Print - the best researched and most respected news is still carried out by folks like the WSJ, Washington Post, etc.


    3: Radio - radio continues to feature in-depth reporting, although much more dumbed down than in print sources.


    DEAD LAST: TV - the boob tube continues to be the news source for the illiterate, with the maximum amount of information transmitted to be contained in a two minute blurb. Everything Chomsky says about TV news is true. This is the gutter of information and news.

    • I have to disagree with Internet as being number 1 as well as Jon's entire article which is again a pinnicle of poorly researched useless dribble opinions entirely from one point of view... but I digress.

      Internet cannot be considered a reliable news source as a whole because there is no barrier to entry. I can go to my personal website and post that Martians blew up the WTC. There's nothing to stop me from doing so.

      I agree with your points about the other three but I would put the Internet last, as it is mostly opinionated views of a situation not factual reporting. Television may have a lot of things wrong with it but most things reported on TV news are not "untrue" although they may have a certain amount of slant.

  • Most serious? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Zen Mastuh ( 456254 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:14PM (#2415787)

    Definitely most abundant. Net users at least have the opportunity to see multiple sides of every issue or event. It's a matter of diligence though--the lazy will be force fed a re-hash of the Big Five censored-and-ready-to-eat television "news"; but the curious and driven can become more enlightened as time goes on.

    I am startled by not only the diversity of opinion--an endangered species in meatspace--but the growing animosity against the "other" side, much like what is going on in meatspace (try standing on a busy streetcorner with a sign that says "Make love, not war"). The willingness of Americans to waive their Civil Rights for a continued false feeling of security presents quite a danger to the diversity of the 'Net. Maybe the combination of general delusion and hostility will bring in the notion that minority points of view are terrorist expression and should be hastily punished in a most hostile fashion.

    If this happens, the terrorists will rejoice in their victory.

  • I was at work when i first heard, as were most people...unfortunately, it meant the major news sites all crumbled under the load, so I ended up on #cnn on EFNET IRC, where some of the ops were providing the latest news updates (with the source quoted, like if it came from CNN etc).

    lots of people also spread mpeg/divx/rm files, taken from various tv channels (mainly from CNN, but also european channels too) which showed the attacks & tons of related footage. and not only that, but some people even broadcast the CNN audio via shoutcast servers so people without access to the tv news could at least listen, which helped to keep ppl up to date on happenings.

    maybe it should be noted that at it's peak, there were about 3600 people in the #cnn irc channel before the servers started buckling from the load (plus some irc clients crashed simply because they couldn't handle so many people in a single channel).

    thanks should go to all the people who helped spread the news.

  • I agree with Katz on a lot of the points above. I don't own a TV, I got most of my information that day from the Net(mostly Slashdot, and then CNN). I still get almost all of my news from CNN.com [cnn.com], Baynews 9.com [baynews9.com], our local newspapers online, etc.

    I think as long as you realize that there are some things you have to take with a grain of salt on the net, and you don't ever rely on one strict source for everything (but instead substantiate it with other sources), the Net can be pretty reliable.

  • by PRickard ( 16563 ) <pr AT ms-bc DOT com> on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:18PM (#2415818) Homepage
    Increasingly, it appears the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the shooting war that began last night have made more distinct another evolutionary leap in information: the Net is emerging as our most serious communications medium and clearly the freest and most diverse.

    Ok, are we going to read the same thing after every US tragedy? Oklahoma City was the Internet's "proving ground," Columbine was the Internet's "proof of usefulness," Monica Lewinsky was evidence of the Internet's "advantages of traditional media." Every tragedy produces comments like this, but the Web is 10 years old now - the Internet became mainstream 4 or 5 years ago, at the latest. People know what the 'net offers, it doesn't take a disaster to "prove" it again.

    Conventional journalists are still obsessed with hackers and pornographers; still fuss about whether the Net is safe or factual. But increasingly, they steer readers to their websites for more in-depth information and conversation.

    Unfortunately, the mainstream news sites are almost all that remain. ABCNews.com and cnn.com are our most important sources of information online, but does that change anything? It leaves information in the hands of the monopolistic communications behemoths and gives them an excuse to provide less coverage through their traditional print and broadcast outlets.
    "Freest and most diverse" my ass. Independent sites like The Industry Standard and Wired News (they need Jon there more than Slashdot, obviously) are being shut down or cut to the bone as funding and advertising dry up, leaving only the major media outlets to continue shoveling out the same crap they've always produced. Yahoo and the rest all rely on triple-filtered newswire trash like Reuters or Bloomberg news, which provide only the basest of information that seems to be typed up by robots.

    The Internet had potential, but more and more we see the mass media outlets choking that off and turning it into just another way for the same old companies to reach people with the same information they've always provided.

    • One minor nitpick (Score:3, Interesting)

      by laetus ( 45131 )
      ABCNews.com and cnn.com are our most important sources of information online

      I would have to disagree. Many of the most respected staff at CNN news have left with the AOL takeover. ABCNews has really had the screws put to it by Disney.

      Byte for byte, I'd have to say that MSNBC and CBSNEWS give you the best news for the bandwidth. MSNBC (yes, I know, I don't like the MS part either) has the combined power of NBC News and the Washington Post/Newsweek behind it. You can see it with the breadth and depth of their articles.

      CBSNEWS, on the other hand, is among the most respected in the industry for integrity and balanced reporting.

  • Net: Now Our Most Serious News Medium?

    Yes, it's getting harder and harder to find a good flamewar on TV, so we resort to the Net.

  • by Junks Jerzey ( 54586 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:23PM (#2415848)
    First, there were the obvious technical problems. Yahoo was dead in the water for the entire morning of September 11. Ditto for CNN and MSNBC. There were smaller sites reporting on things--mostly weblogs--but they were reporting by watching TV, listening to the radio, and typing what they saw and heard. So the net was a secondary news source in this case. People were only using the web because they were at work and didn't have access to other media.

    Second, the independent sites were not doing any better than TV in general. We make fun of TV for jumping the gun too quickly and reporting unconfirmed information, but the weblogs were much worse about this. Dave Winer started beating the war drum right away at scripting.com, putting up scare-tactic surverys like "Will America go to war?" within hours of the attacks. Metafilter.com ran a whole bunch of really dumb stories that never would have made it to TV, like the Nostradamus nonsense, and the headline about a small, unmarked plane circling Manhattan. Were they trying to get people to think it was another terrorist-controlled plane? In reality, it was a FEMA plane surveying the damage.

    In general, the weblogs and independent web sites have been too quick to pat themselves on the back about September 11.
  • The major thing the Net has that other news sources lack is a real sort of community. You can't interact with the talking heads on T.V., you can't hunt for the specific information you want, you can't add information of your own or dispel rumors or investigate myths. That probably explains why George Dubya went straight for the Internet (libertyunites.com) in his efforts to rally us together. There is already a live and responsive community here. In the hours immediately after the attacks, places like slashdot and google were mirroring vital news sources for readers, and community bulletin boards like craigslist were hopping with people organizing victims' relief and sharing their own news and responses and coming together for rallies and prayer meetings and things. You can't get that kind of instant popular reaction from NBC.

    I heard some amazing misinformation on television the day of the attacks, incredible rumors and tall tales (police officer who "surfed" rubble down 86 floors in the collapse?), and it was when I went to the Net that I found people who had followed up on these stories, who knew what was right and what wasn't, and who had real information of their own as news broke. T.V. and radio aren't diverse enough media; there are only a handful of networks and major news stations. On the Internet, any idiot with a modem can put his two cents in, and sometimes that's not so great and sometimes it's amazing.

  • by under_score ( 65824 ) <mishkin@@@berteig...com> on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:28PM (#2415870) Homepage
    One of the things the the so-far highly moderated posts have missed is the concept of TV as an established mechanism which provides a certain kind of information, vs. the net as an emerging mechanism which provides a different kind of information.

    Television is not and can never be truly interactive.

    The net (email, web, IM, etc.) is primarily interactive. Even if you are primarily a consumer, your consumption statistics are fed back into the system. But that is just the lowest level, of course. Many people have personal home pages, many people can contribute to weblogs, discussion groups, usenet news, email lists, etc. and their contributions are archived, responded to, and have a real impact on the future direction of information exchange.

    Although Katz does not state it explicitly, this interactivity is what distinguishes the net from the old forms of media, and is one of the really cool aspects of the information flow following Sept. 11th. Slashdot, for example, experienced record levels of comments for the several articles about the distaster that were posted - often well in excess of 1000 comments!!! That just isn't possible with any other media.

    And because it is still an emerging media, yes - the signal to noise ratio isn't the greatest. But mechanisms are being developed and tested to improve this.


    For truly interactive education, check out Oomind:

  • I hear and agree with those who say the internet today is more important for news than any other medium. You can listen to the BBC or C4 on television, and their coverage of the live events was incomparable. Recent events were seen simultaneously on television by people around the western world.

    However, when we start to look at the reporting of an event's aftermath, we see a different picture emerging. We get the plain facts (presidential speeches) etc. but the opinions are entirely those of the "political class", those who frequent the offices of government, and mainly those who agree with their government. Anyone anti-government typically has a problem creating a serious image on TV or radio, and comes off looking silly against the groomed, professional anchormen and ministers.

    Now, we look at the net. For the basic information, everything is there, not just transcripts of the speeches, but audio and video too. The more sites it appears on, the more you can trust it. (I assumed the bombings on TV were a hoax or a film until I noticed it on all 4 channels) Sure, you might not trust the CNN website for whatever reason, but you can open 20 other news websites in 20 browser windows, and get the same story from all the angles, from various countries.

    However, I find that many of the big news sites, those of TV stations, those of newspapers, those of the BBC tend to echo the opinions of their reporters in traditional media. No surprise there, but it still lacks the "opposing view" so essential to the balanced presentation of news.

    But then I found slashdot, where people write the news for themselves. Since I started reading slashdot articles, I've only gone back to the BBC one or two times, to confirm things posted here. The "peer-to-peer news reporting" is much more useful than traditional websites, as people get the chance to discuss the news. If someone posts incorrect data, then you can read the comments, and see what the consensus is. You don't need to curse the smug newsreader on your TV; if you have a correction, you can say it.

    So well done to everyone at slashdot for making the idea of internet news really work. The internet will become the staple of news coverage, especially for those in offices all day, and I hope that peer-posted and reviewed news sites become the standard in years to come.

    Oliver White

    My news [blibbleblobble.co.uk]

  • This is interesting because last night I was watching an interview with Pierre Berton on canadian tv. He mentionned one thing that really struck me. In the second world war there was a british attack(don't remember which one, I wasn't taking notes) that was one of the bloodiest ever. They lost 65 000 soldier in one day. But back home the "traditionnal" media were claiming that it was an astounding success with minimal losses. Some would say it was to keep morale up back home, but I say nay to apologists and think it's just pure deception.

    Were this to happen nowadays, a government couldn't hide the truth to the masses because somewhere else in the world someone would post the truth on the net. And don't forget kids, don't be too quick to trust was you see on tv, they're excellent at showing only one side of the coin. To the medias defense, sometimes they're just being used without knowing it.
  • by M_Talon ( 135587 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:34PM (#2415900) Homepage
    It were these accounts that reported for the first time that planes had had hit the tower, that the towers had fallen, that there there were likely to be few survivors in the rubble.

    Um, the news that the towers had fallen wasn't a first on the net. The TV stations had their cameras trained on the towers and broadcast it live for everyone to see. Same with the second plane hitting. Let's keep the credit where it's due, ok?

    What the net did provide was eyewitness accounts and various viewpoints. It was a more personal kind of reporting, but it didn't "scoop" the news networks that much. Yes, the Internet did prove itself useful for disseminating that kind of information. The rest was merely recycled stuff from the majors.
  • Deja vu? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:38PM (#2415921) Homepage Journal
    I think I'm experiencing Deja Vu, because I coulda [slashdot.org] sworn [slashdot.org] I've [slashdot.org] read [slashdot.org] this [slashdot.org] article [slashdot.org] before [slashdot.org] (Ok, bored with searching, but there is more).

    We get it, Jon. The net is evolving to the next stage of media. Can we talk about something else?
  • by Phaid ( 938 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @12:42PM (#2415950) Homepage
    This is just more hype about how the Net and everything appearing on it is cool and hip and important, while the dinosaur of old media is dying. It's still not true.

    My main use for the Internet on September 11 was communications. I don't have a television or a radio in my office at work, so what I did was SSH into my tv-card-equipped machine at home and fire up XawTV and view screen grabs from ABC and CNN. I was on the CNN.com IRC server reading their closed-captioning server so I had a basically real time transcript to go with the pictures. I was also on EFNet talking to people. The Net allowed me to circumvent the physical barriers blocking my access to non-Net-based information, but I was still getting my news from traditional sources. Most Web-based news sites were terribly behind the curve; those that weren't were overloaded and unreachable.

    As for reporting since September 11, the Net isn't that great. The only sites that are terribly informative are ones run by big media outlets. It's true that the Net allows you a much wider perspective, since you can get news from all over the world. But it's not the chaotic rumor mongering and pontification of most independent web sites which is interesting; it's the well researched and disciplined reporting that happens at major media organizations.

    You argue that old media is monolithic and overly consolidated. But the Web allows you to get around that easily. It's not the independent news sites that allow this; it's the fact that every major news organization on the planet has a presence on the Web. Don't believe the New York Times? See what the South China Morning Post has to say instead.

    The problem, Jon, is that you seem to believe that just because something is on the Net, it's automatically great. But most people who write on the Web aren't particularly skillful or talented or well informed; they're just people. You still need money and resources to gather news effectively. CNN and ABC News and whatnot may not be as hip and cool as LeetNews.com, but they have the resources to do the "serious" reporting. The Net is great because it makes more of this sort of information available, more quickly. But it doesn't empower anyone to suddenly become well informed and interesting.
    • While it may be true that most people on the Net
      get their news from commercial (TV) news sites,
      the Net doesn't force you to do it this way.

      One good use of the Net is to visit the various
      search sites and type in the keywords from news
      stories. You can rapidly find all sorts of good
      background information that isn't on the news
      web sites.

      This is especially useful now that Condoleeza Rice
      seems to have persuaded the major news sources to
      suppress the Other Side's public comments. It's
      very easy to find them on the Net, as well as lots
      of analyses and history from all sorts of points
      of view.

      The major importance of the Net is that a lot of
      information is Out There, and it can be found. You
      aren't at the mercy of the major commercial news
      organizations.

  • You write an article on slashdot about how we can get accurate news on the net?

    I think I speak for all slashdot reader when I say "Well, D'uh".

  • Big News Agencies (Score:2, Insightful)

    by themurray ( 78325 )
    Profits and bias-reporting (towards the left) seem to drive the news this days, even with the 9-11 incident. Worldnetdaily and newsmax offers many stories that would not be caught dead on a leftist editor's ABC or NBC show, since they support guns, people's rights, etc. Drudge is a little better, then major news, but not everything is researched properly at times.

    I can't stand most major talking heads on the news like Dan Rather and his kin. The way they skew news stories with personal like or dislike is horrible.
  • by sien ( 35268 )
    I think that the true value of the net is yet to come. The reason I say this is government media management. The Gulf War will be, I think, the high water mark of government media management. In the Gulf War the US military brilliantly controlled the media, and denied it the ability to provide good images that they did not wish people to see. That is now impossible. The fact that it costs almost nothing to provide news to millions of people means that more views and more images can get across. This has been best outlined by the current debate on whether it is ethical to show Osama's videos. Who cares ? The US government can no longer deny people access to this information. When the Taliban get smart and start shooting videos of dieng civilians and send them out it will not be possible to remove those images from mass distribution.
    Honestly, for the first time in a long time I'm feeling like the internet does do a neat new thing. Media and information freed are being freed from financial constraints.
    Another cool thing about this is the range of expression you get. You can go beyond US media in the US easily, and check not what US media says that Arabs say but what Arabs actually say. That is great.
    Finally, it will be really interesting to see how the anti-war movement uses the net to organize and inform. If the war is long and nasty it may enable the anti-war movement to be much better organised and informed than ever before.
  • There are fewer and less restrictive editorial conventions on the net compared to other media. In it's thirst to be first, every agency from the government to the RNC to CNN to your local al-Wazir website pretty much pushes whatever they want without verification, vetting, substantiation of sources or accurate quoting. We accept that there is a higher probability that anything we read on the web even if it's from The Washington Post, may be pure bullshit or at best, inaccurate or uninformed. We're traded signal to noise for speed. But then again the standards for mass media are pretty low anyhow since there is little or no distinction among news, editorial, political advertising and commercial advertising.
  • Certainly the Net is not a place of misinformation, full misleading journalism, with writers like JohnKats around. How could you not trust JK's medium of choice?
  • The early media pundit Marshall McLuhan divided media into "hot" and "cold" depending on how actively the audience participates. Video games are at one end- very hot- while daytime TV is very cold- TV is mainly a background noise.

    Net news is "warmer" than TV news. You pretty much take TV news as they dish it out. While the web you can hunt for detail and diverse opinion.
  • I'll stick with online media. It was either today ot yesterday that major news media agreed to stop airing video tapes of bin Laden. Sure, I don't agree with the guy, but we defintely should hear both sides of the story. Oh wait, then maybe American's won't feel so great about what their government has done in the past. Sure we should support our system, but that doesn't mean do it blindly.

    Give me options or give me death. If I don't have options, I don't have freedom. Therefore, this is equivalent to give me liberty or give me death. This should be our new battle cry against those who oppose freedom of speech and liberty (although someone can probably think of a better way to put it).

    Even when the "net" is wrong, because there is a decentralization of news coverage, you ae assured to give multiple angles on a piece, and only when you have evaluated an issue from all side can you form a reasonable opinion about what's going on. The first thing to go during war is the Truth, but we really needed is the arguments, so we can come to our own Truths.

    F-bacher
  • The traditional news media--the TV networks and newspapers -- have colonized the Web and turned it into another channel for their content. The Web offers plenty of new sources for rumour and opinion but authoritative news comes from the same sources as it always has with all the benefits and drawbacks they entail.

    As a result, the Web is less immediate than television and a more immediate than the daily newspaper but the content is fundamentally the same.

    The future of the Web as a news medium is almost certainly not in broadcasting but in narrowcasting. Information can be selected, packaged and distributed to niche markets and special interest groups more quickly and cheaply than other media.

    Here the Web is not fulfilling its potential for breaking news. For instance, groups involved in the Sept. 11 disaster such as the NYPD, the N.Y. Fire Dept., the companies in the WTC, the airlines, etc., could have begun posting information as it became available for interested parties. They would have provided authoritative information not available from the broadcast media that have a wider mandate.

    Existing broadcast news media could turn over part of their Web sites for this type of information so that users would have a portal rather than having to go to numerous separate sites.

    Given such a platform, companies, government agencies and non-profit groups that normally slant their press releases so that they will be picked up by conventional broadcast news media could instead provide detailed information for the specific groups that need it.

    Add a "what's new" page and a search engine to such a site, and you have the news site of the future.

  • It seemed to me that, unlike any previous big story, the Net had become the place where people were going for more accurate information -- including all kinds of content unavailable in most traditional media.


    Who would ever have thought that George W. Bush would do his primary fund-raising appeal before Congress and the public by announcing a url: libertyunite.org?


    So much for internet accuracy. The url that Bush announced was libertyunites.org. I mean, c'mon, give me a break, the internet does not excel in the accuracy department. Especially Slashdot. Especially Jon Katz. But what it does excel at is the uncensored spread of information, and as it turns out, combined with what I'll call information darwinism, that turns out to be more important than accuracy.


    If you can't find it on the internet, chances are it's not true. If you do find it on the internet, it may or may not be true.

  • I am a German living in the United States and I turned to the Web to get information on the incidents that have a little "distance" to the disaster. It might not have been the most up-to-date information, BUT it was more accurate, better researched and also offered some other perspective. E.g. why people in other parts of the world might find the attack legitimate. Explaining the thinking, the reasoning behind such evil attacks. Please do not get me wrong, I condemn the attacks like everybody should. But still other countries might have a different perspective on the whole incident.
  • The trouble with mass media like TV and radio is that it's ratings driven to the point where its whole purpose is just to catch your attention- it acts like a bunch of kids playing a game of "made you look." If it can distract you for just a few seconds, it has done its job. So it doesn't matter if stories are factual, intelligent, or whatever. Producers can go back and correct themselves later, but as long as they got your attention the first time, they've "won." Even newspapers are like this- a story may have the exact opposite point of the first, catch-your-eye paragraph.

    But the 'net isn't like that. People must actively seek information from it. They have to click on something, ot type an URL. It's not continually running in the background, trying to catch their attention. Secondly, people can seek out and take what they want from the 'net- the choice of what to read is theirs, not some producer's at CNN. Readers can keep looking around the 'net until they're satisfied what they see is a definitive answer.

    So whether or not the 'net has become the definitive source of news, readers feel like they're getting what they want, so they're accepting it that way more and more.

  • Props to the Onion (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JWhitlock ( 201845 ) <John-Whitlock@i[ ].org ['eee' in gap]> on Thursday October 11, 2001 @01:40PM (#2416239)
    I agree wholeheartedly with Jon Katz on this one point - the Onion did an excellent job, and did something that almost no other media could do - use humor to explore the deeper truths beneath the terrorist attacks. If you haven't read their coverage, go read it now. [theonion.com] If anyone from the Onion is reading, can you back-order that particular issue, maybe with profits going to a good cause?

    Seriously, this is what the net is good at - it's so new, a site like the Onion can get away with finding the humor in the attack. SNL would have had a hard time doing it, Bill Maher is in a lot of shit for doing what he does, and newspapers still think Mallard Fillmore belongs in the comics section.

    On a more personal note, the repeated clip of planes crashing into buildings, the footage of New Yorker's reacting, the climbing death tolls, the speeches of pundits and politicians - none of this moved me on an emotional level, except to push me into further shock. But, when I read this article from that Onion issue [theonion.com], it moved me to tears.

  • Or that British Prime Minister Tony Blair would publish the evidence against Osama Bin-Laden on a government Web site?

    I've not seen any evidence that Osama Bin-Laden was involved in the attacks (lots of evidence that Sadaam was, though); does anyone know what web site Katz is referring to?

    For the record, I don't really care if he was or not, so long as the Taliban (and OBL for that matter) are wiped out. If I knew someone who had been killed, though, I might be a bit more interested in knowing if we've really got the right guy.

    TWW

  • Personally the news source I trust the most online or off is Salon. An independent voice willing to get into the messy details with opinions from a variety of viewpoints.
  • by AugstWest ( 79042 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @02:37PM (#2416549)
    I've had MSNBC andCNN on pretty constantly during the day when I'm wokring, and I've heard a LOT of things that I cannot corroborate with the Internet resources, even for MSNBC, FoxNews and CNN.

    I heard 3 or 4 times today on the TV that they busted 3 Pakistani men at the Hudson Valley Water Treatment Plant. I can't find any mention of it on the net from any major news outlet.

    I heard of a couple of hijackings on the TV yesterday that I've seen nowhere on the web.

    With telelvision, they have talking heads sitting there live, and if information comes in it is handed to them and read on the air. The websites seem to be far slower to update.

    As far as long-term information goes, however, there is nothing like the internet. I have been able to study the history of Saudi Arabia, Israel, Afghanistan, Oman and the foreign relations between all of them and the US. A couple of web searches, and you've got historical information.

    I wish more Americans would stop obsessing over knowing *exactly* what the military is up to at the moment and start concentrating on why we have troops there in the first place. As a nation we are rather uninformed on what's going on over there. Yes, we are more informed than many other nations, but we also meddle more than most of those nations.
  • by billstewart ( 78916 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @02:57PM (#2416656) Journal
    There's a lot of cultural difference between what happens on the net and what happens on TV; TV is highly centralized information presentation, while the Net is highly decentralized - person-to-person email, plus web sites that range from individual rants to formal broadcasts by large news organizations, plus search tools that let you find things you're looking for without some editing service compiling them into a package for you. Esther Dyson has comented since at least Release 2.1 about the asymmetry between Net-based and centralized information sources, most famously commenting that the Net may be good for conspiracy and rumors, but TV is better at propaganda.

    Look at the information you're seeing, and if you were old enough to be media-literate during the Gulf War, think about how the messages were managed then, including coverage on TV, news wire services, editorials, interviews with government sources. It was done better during the Gulf War because Bush Sr. could take his time, while Bush Jr. had this thrown at him, plus the press has a strong talent for going for the emotional, intense stories around the WTC scene, which creates an energy that Bush can use but can't control as easily.

    Email was more useful than the web for the beginnings of the story - I first heard by phone call from a friend who'd been watching early-morning TV, and then started getting emails. CNN.com was slashdotted, and did extremely well getting anything at all up and running with that demand load - just because the web lets everybody publish information to everybody else doesn't mean you don't turn to a few centralized sites for breaking news :-) Email also had the advantage that it's much lower bit volume and scales better than the web because of the large peer-to-peer connectivity, and it has different failure modes than wired and wireless telephony so people near the affected sites could get messages out more reliably.

    The net being what it is, I googled for Esther Dyson conspiracy propaganda and found a bunch of references including this interview with Esther Dyson: [paraview.com]

    • AD: You mentioned in your book the different characteristics of the Internet and television, the former being an instrument of conspiracy and the latter an instrument of propaganda. Could you explain that a bit more?
    • ED: It is a bit of a simplification, but what I want to say is that propaganda is a centrally propagated formal truth, which can be good or bad. Conspiracy is an undermining, decentralized force. The point is depending whether the centralizing authority is good or bad, the conspiracy is good or bad. The role of the Internet is to be an undermining force. If I had to choose between the Internet and television, I would choose the Internet and its conspiracy over television and its propaganda.

  • by Sara Chan ( 138144 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @03:06PM (#2416716)
    If all you did was browse the relevant Slashdot stories at +5, I think you would end up having a better understanding of terrorist events than if you followed any of the mainstream media (and ignored Slashdot). The American media has been very biased, and has even been told by the government [bbc.co.uk] to "exercise judgement" in their reporting. Following is a nice quote from a BBC story [bbc.co.uk]:
    The United States has found itself on the back foot, complaining to the Emir of Qatar that the television station [al-Jazeera] was becoming a platform for Bin Laden but being told that media freedom was an essential part of democratic life. In the past things have usually been the other way round. Autocratic leaders complained to the West about media criticism but were told that western governments had no control over journalists.

    My view is that the level of analysis given, for example, in this Slashdot comment [slashdot.org] does not exist in the Western mass media. I sent a copy of this comment to some non-technical people--who don't read Slashdot--their view was the same: nothing else they had seen was better than Slashdot.
  • thank god for IM (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jptxs ( 95600 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @03:34PM (#2416844) Journal
    i am from NJ, right outside NYC about 10 minutes from ground zero. I was in Cali 9/11. My wife called me hysterical and woke me up. We spoke for a short while and got cut off. I could not reach her by phone. I got to the office, hooked into the network and she had her IM client up. We were able to talk all that day thanks to it. We had a radio in the office and I listened to NPR while she watched CNN. We both scanned the net for news too. For news, I used every source I could get - none stood out. But the net let me keep a constant instant watch over my family from 3000 miles away and that was cool.

    we speak the way we breath --Fugazi
  • by ainsoph ( 2216 ) on Thursday October 11, 2001 @06:25PM (#2417484) Homepage
    What I have found is that the net allows me to dig into 'the story' a lot deeper. Yes there is tons of crap to sift through, I find that enjoyable: I can quickly check sources and references and the like as well as seeing many different sides of the story.

    This is not possible on televison. There is a lot of lip services paid to these ideals, yet seemingly impossible for them to do at this point due to the heavy corporate control over the broadcast medium.

    Like people who think that public broadcasting is the shelter from the storm: Last night while listening to NPR there was a show that came on that was about Democracy and the war. In the begining of the show it was announced that it was underwritten by Merck Pharmecuticals. All I could think was "Now they don't have any financial interest in anything now do they?"

    My feelings is the net was initially about information, it took a turn and became about selling, but in these strange times it is going back to its roots. Broadcast has just become too transparent at this point when there is so much more access to other ideas from other sources.

    Not to say TV doesnt have some good stuff, it does.

    Attempting to compile a semi biased list of alternative ideas and news stories at my website daily:

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