In an Op-Ed for the Washington Post attorney Dusty Horwitt makes two distinct points. The first is...
But in our information-overloaded society, the concept of TMI is no joke. The information avalanche coming from all sides -- the Internet, PDAs, hundreds of television channels -- is burying us in extraneous data that prevent important facts and knowledge from reaching a broad audience.
Lawyers are familiar with this phenomenon. In fact, they use it to their advantage: They know that if you want to hide damaging information about a case, there's nothing like a document dump to do the trick. You make the facts freely available -- along with so much irrelevant data that no one will ever find them.
That, is a point in and of itself. He then goes on to his second point...
Rather than call for government regulation of technology itself, perhaps the best way to limit the avalanche is to make the technologies that overproduce information more expensive and less widespread. It could be done via a progressive energy tax designed to keep energy prices at a consistently high level (while providing assistance to lower- and middle-income Americans).
The reason I'm making a special effort to frame this as two points is that I don't plan to spend much time on the second point which is very likely the dumbest thing I've ever heard. That said, this goes back to a theme I pointed to in my post last week. This is the mentality of people who want to give Government control of technology. Doing so means if Government feels you're producing "Too much information" Government can arbitrarily raise energy prices to prevent you from doing so.
It's Robert Scoble's totalitarian dream come true.
But I digress. Going back to the first point I think there's some merit in what Mr. Horwitt is saying. Reliable sources are being drowned out by the noise of the Internet and that is a problem not only for our Government but for our Society as a whole. Anyone who has read the ridiculously polarized ranting of most political bloggers (and who aren't ridiculously polarized themselves) should understand what I mean. These people should not be at the top of the Google search.
But in saying that I have to point out this door was opened by the mainstream media. They abandoned their principles of neutrality and began to show their bias which made them no better than the crazed political bloggers out there. In a world where Bill O'Reilly and Keith Olbermann are considered newsmen how can the mainstream media really criticize bloggers?
Which brings me to my point. If the mainstream media wants to save themselves and do Society a favor at the same time they need to do two things:
1. Rediscover the art of Journalism. If you want to be considered the reliable source than you actually have to work at being reliable. That means knowing your biases and going out of your way to counter-act them. During the 2004 election Bob Woodward wrote a book about the Bush Administration that was on the recommended reading list of both the Bush and Kerry campaigns because it was truth without bias. That should be the goal of every reporter.
2. Embrace the web as a whole. As crazed as I think most political bloggers are they're still relevant. What newspapers need to realize is they shouldn't be competing with bloggers they should be acting as a portal to them. Any good news paper site should allow their readers to "drill down" into the web. By doing that they effectively solve Mr. Horwitt's original problem by putting the reliable source up front while at the same time taming the so-called "too much information" problem by providing an orderly gateway to the rest of the web.
I'm not claiming to be an expert but I'd be willing to bet my bank account on the above two steps. It's time for the media to remember their job is to present the world to their readers. Blogs are part of that world and finding a logical way to present them might just save the mainstream media in the long run.