Hoovering in the journo world
Thursday, April 7, 2016 by Dave Winer

This seems to be a cathartic week for word-news publishers. As Facebook hoovers up the news flows of the news orgs that modeled themselves after 20th century print publishers, the ink-stained folks seem somewhat lost. They should feel that way imho. They missed what's really happening with the transition to the web. It's all around them, but they didn't seem to see it.

I think of all the publishers out there the only one who really gets it is Evan Williams at Medium. The value is in the story told from expertise. What I have often called Sources Go Direct. That's all news is, glueing together of source statements into a kind of coherence. (BTW, I'm not saying Medium has a viable business, or that it's good for bloggers, just that the model of news as independently floating bits of expertise is the right idea.)

On the political side it took Donald Trump to be the innovator. He said I can go straight to the voters with my pitch. I can make the news media struggle to be part of the story. I can say whatever I want without fear of being kept honest by gatekeepers. 

I remember arguing with Nick Denton about this a few years ago at an NYU seminar. His thesis was there were gatekeepers before the web, and on the web we have gatekeepers here too. He flattered me by saying I used to be his gatekeeper, until he found away around. Which he surely did (not that I tried to be his gatekeeper, I did not.)

This is a somewhat familiar story. Microsoft claimed when the web came along that it will just be another feature of Office. Gates, then CEO, asked what impact will the web have on Flight Simulator or Encarta? Everything, it turns out. But the thing was in the first few years it looked as if Microsoft had succeeded in boxing up the web as a feature of Office. Until it busted out. Thanks to blogs and RSS and later Twitter and Facebook.

Well, it had to happen. The tank that once was filled with gatekeeping, was being emptied. I told Nick that I had already routed around the gatekeepers, why did he think it wouldn't happen again and again, and quicker each time until the gatekeeping wore down to nothing. 

Who needs human people to rewrite an Apple press release? You could even fill the Apple auditorium with human-like robots who applaud, cheer and shriek at just the right moments. 

And is fact-checking Trump useful if there's no market for facts? That's really depressing, and I have hope we can get back on track, but the journalism world has been to narrow-visioned, too mercenary. Selling out for a bit, until eventually all that's left is TV. And that'll run out too.

If we want to have journalism it's going to take some creative work, and catching up and serious risk-taking. The web has, without waiting for journalism to catch up, moved way beyond where journalism in the 20th century model could take us.