Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Where's the Accountability?

I should have posted this back in October when I wrote it.

Yesterday on the Disney Morning News, a segment on the Google purchase of YouTube called it a major step in the shift toward internet-based media on demand, away from commercial media on a broadcast schedule.

The Internet has long been a source of information not readily accessible by the former conventional means. It has progressed from its limited origins very quickly to the unruly creation we use today. It's becoming downright normal.

While the Internet does offer access to a theoretically unlimited audience to people with very limited resources, that virtue is also a drawback. Virtually anyone can slap anything up there to be mistaken for the truth.

A large, visible corporation has a strong motive to make statements it can at least substantiate. A large corporation can't slip into the shadows, change servers, take down the site and pop up somewhere else. It's a big, fat target for lawsuits and regulatory penalties. Advertisers will insist that the media corporation maintain enough stability to be a viable platform for the advertisements.

Maybe all that doesn't matter. A juicy rumor is more fun than a bunch of boring facts. And a lot of Internet news is reliable. The corporate journalism corporations even offer their own Internet content. But you can't be sure that any of it is true. Mistakes combine with purposeful misdirection to render any information suspect until it's been verified.

The Suits and Bean-counters have their own good reasons to keep their affairs in order.

That being said, broadcast media rely on different revenue streams than do the Internet privateers. If the market research shows that broadcast audiences want crap, crap is what you'll get. You can get crap on the Internet, too, but you have 97-jillion channels to flip to. Somewhere out there, you'll find what you like.

I just don't want to hear the assumption that Internet content is more accurate and complete by definition. The consumer has to go looking for all the points of view and tidbits of information that provide a full story and complete understanding.

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