When bloggers devolve into gossips

I haven’t closely followed the whole Kathy-Sierra-was-threatened thing, but Scott Karp has, and has come to the reasonable conclusion that professional journalism still matters.

I have been watching in silent horror for days as this drama has unfolded — horror not only at Kathy Sierra’s traumatization, but over the total unrestrained free-for-all in the blogosphere. This is a case study in hearsay, innuendo, rumor, defamation, libel, jumping to conclusions and every other negative consequence of unrestrained publishing that the principles of journalism are intended to prevent, and notwithstanding some notable failures, generally do prevent when applied with some seriousness of purpose.

Blogging does have a real weakness when confronted with a vacuum of useful information. Bloggers do well when through first-hand observation, their own expertise, an e-mail interview, a good Google search or some other means to find meaningful data points they have something to collate, aggregate and comment on. But in a vacuum, bloggers are just high tech gossips.

I don’t see that changing, so discerning readers need to recognize it, even call bloggers on it when they see it, and we all need to put checks on ourselves when it come to writing about stuff we don’t really know.

As for the Kathy Sierra incident. It certainly is ugly. It is a black mark on blogging, on open, distributed communication. I take her at her word that she was threatened. I can’t be so sure that the people she names are guilty. But somebody is responsible. The best hope is that where appropriate, criminal charges are filed. People need to be reminded that along with the ease of self publishing comes real world civil responsibilities and legal obligations that can’t be ignored.

The only thing constant in the news business (now) is change

Here’s a competitive advantage, if you can harness it: Be ready for change.

  • There are newspaper companies that either don’t believe things are really going to change, aren’t changing that much, or change won’t effect their businesses.
  • There are newspaper companies that believe things are changing, and believe they are embracing change, but they are still chained to tradition or fixed mindsets.
  • There are newspaper companies that understand change and are ready.

By change, I don’t just mean things will be different. I mean change as a constant state.

In 1900, the power of information technology doubled every three years, according to Ray Kurzweil. Today, it doubles every year. Note the exponential rate of increase. The more our computing power increases, the faster the pace of change, the more change is poured into the pipeline. Change is no longer an event. Change is now part of the human condition.

It’s not enough just to adopt new information technology; you need to know what’s coming and predicatively adapt elastic content and business models.

I first started thinking about rapid change when I read a piece in an airline magazine about Kurzeweil. I was reminded of his theories in another article from an old Inc. magazine I just read. There is a lot about his theory of the singularity that demands more study and is beyond this simple blog post, but I think we all have observed the rapid pace of information technology advancement. We’ve noticed it, but have we really thought about what it means for how we run our news organizations, both as businesses and content providers? Whether the singularity is soon or a long way off (or just a crock), there’s a lot of change to get through just to keep going.