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Can the Internet Save Media?

When I left the PR industry 3 years ago, I went on a media fast. I stopped reading newspapers, magazines and eventually I even got rid of cable.

This wasn’t a coincidence.

I’d seen how newspapers and radio and TV programs picked up stories written by my colleagues and me, run unchanged. We learned which publications were safe — and which were notorious for running negative stories (Crain’s, The Wall Street Journal).

And it didn’t make me feel good. I felt rotten.

I want to believe in an independent, objective press.

I share Walter Cronkite’s belief that:

Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy. 

I love the media. Fiercely.

So, when I see one of my country’s most respected newspapers participate in sensationalist journalism again and again, I has a sad.

Like this piece that ran in the New York Times’ Bits Blog: How the Internet is Ruining Everything.

In the post, Quentin Hardy discusses David Weinberger’s new book Too Big to Know (not yet released). Hardy identifies the destruction of our institutions of knowledge and culture as a main theme of the book. He goes on to quote Weinberger:

Newspapers, encyclopedias, they are just gone, at the touch of a hyperlink,” Mr. Weinberger said. The institutions of “education and politics – they’ll just shatter. How did they get to be so fragile?” With the pained glee of a scientist discovering very bad news, he added, “knowledge for my generation was at the center of the human quest. It is going the way of the recording industry. It is a term that won’t survive the generation.” (emphasis mine)

I’m going to set aside for now the problematic claim that my generation is not interested in knowledge. We’ll come back to it.

The essence of Weinberger’s book, according to the article, is that the Internet allows everyone to contribute their own point of view. It undermines expertise by giving voice to you and me.

There’s a lot more to think about in the post, and it was, in fact, rebutted by Weinberger. I recommend you read both, because the argument is central to a gaping cultural divide — one that we’re a part of.

Let’s talk about the idea of expertise. Is it really being eroded by the Internet?

Journalists took care of that a long time ago.

The definition of fair and balanced reporting is, as far as I can tell, getting two people to comment on a story with opposing points of view. The sound bite is king.

With an advertising-based revenue model, this is inevitable. News subsidized by corporations leads to ever-increasing pressure to sell, sell, sell!

What sells?

Who gets more column inches? Academics or pundits?

It’s no surprise that trust in media is at an all-time low.

The reasons are more complicated than misleading headlines and pundit-style journalism. In the media’s defense, I’d say the Internet is making the public more aware of bias, skewing the results. We’re questioning the status and claims of experts, and rightfully so. 

Is the Internet Ruining Everything? Hell no.

The hyperlink is the savior of the media.

Well, it would be if they’d use them.

With hyperlinks, we have an unsurpassed opportunity to both demonstrate and analyze expertise. You can click on the links I placed in this post and make up your own mind. That is a powerful thing.

I’ve long wanted to see the media link to their sources. Quoting a doctor on a piece about obesity? Great! Link to her site, so I can find out whether she’s a MD, PHD or sociologist. Depending on the story, it’s incredibly relevant which degree this doctor boasts.

I can come up with a lot of excuses for the media, but no valid reason why they don’t link to source material. It’s mind-boggling.

But not everything is quite so gloomy.

In this TEDx talk, The Guardian reporter Paul Lewis shares how he used Twitter to investigate — and get to the truth of — two murders. Lewis argues that citizen journalism is leading a movement towards accountability.

Twitter linking reporters to knowledge and truth. Imagine that.

Unfortunately, even The Guardian doesn’t link to source material. We’ll get there. Eventually.

Sorry, Mr. Hardy, I don’t buy your claim that the Internet is ruining everything. It just might be saving your profession.

Playing in the Sandbox: Google+

I read an article that referenced all the people who’ve gotten into Google+ as early adopters.

This cracks me up, because I just installed Skype in March, and I didn’t even start using Hootsuite to manage Twitter until 2 weeks ago.

Yet, I’m field testing Google+.

I hardcore love that the invitation came from my husband, rather than one of the super connected people I know through blogging. It’s just…so sweet. He doesn’t blog. He’s not on Twitter. Yet he hooked me up. And I love it.

Sorry, gushiness over.

It’s been a little less than a week now, and I am officially converted. There are countless tutorials already, and that’s not really my thing, but I am definitely writing to convince you to sign up. Because it’ll be a hell of a lot more fun if you’re playing in the sandbox.

Here’s why.

1. Google+ is new, so users aren’t jaded yet.

There’s something akin to giddiness over at Google+. Some people are questioning whether they really need yet another social network, but, overwhelmingly, I’m seeing a fresh, open approach.

2. The circles feature has crazy potential.

I just may be the only person left in the online community with only 200 contacts on Facebook. That’s because I largely limit it to…friends. I’ve started connecting with others on Facebook, but I’m selective about it. We need to have met in person and/or engaged in an ongoing conversation.

Now that I’ve expanded my Facebook account to include some of my blog buddies, I feel incredibly awkward. Silly things I previously felt comfortable sharing with friends just don’t feel appropriate now.

With Google+, you can group people and designate which groups receive your updates.

Problem solved.

3. It just feels…social.

My initial impression is that Google+ combines the best of Facebook (threaded comments around specific subjects) with the best of Twitter (ability to listen in on multiple conversations). It’s still in early tests, so there are plenty of issues to work through (only being able to see one circle or all), but I trust it’ll get better.

Don’t you want an invite?

Invitations are opened in waves. It appears that Google has a quota for allowing new users into Google+. And there are limits to how many users a person can invite at once.

All that aside, I’d love to invite you to join me

To do so, I need your e-mail address. You can either leave a comment, or shoot me an e-mail at hello at brigittelyons dot com.

I’ll see you there.

 

I’m On Way Too Many Lists…And You Are, Too

Buy it: Overwhelmed by YellowMelle

Last night, my favorite person on the Internet told me to unsubscribe from his blog. Twice.

Last night, I didn’t want to hear him.

Maybe that’s why humans need so much sleep. To shut down, so we can learn the lessons we need to learn. But let me back up a bit.

First, the players:

Karol Gajda of Ridiculously Extraordinary, aka my favorite person on the Internet. Karol is a good person to know. He just may be the most supportive person I’ve ever met. Karol gives encouragement…lots of it. But he’s also not afraid to give a smack down…especially when you’re making excuses. Take a look at the way he responds to comments, and you’ll see what I mean.

Marie Forleo, Laura Roeder, Danielle LaPorte, Alexis Neely…and pretty much the entire Internet. I’m on the lists of all those people. I’ve bought training from Laura and Danielle, and I love, love, love their stuff.

But, yesterday, I pretty much threw a tantrum after getting one too many e-mails about Rich, Happy & Hot B-School.

Act I: I embarrass myself over e-mail.

Naturally, being super into self-sabotage, I directed this tantrum at Karol. I do NOT recommend doing this ever. Ever, ever. I am incredibly lucky this story has a happy ending (spoiler!).

Among other things, Karol told me this:

Unsubscribe from every e-mail list and blog you are currently subscribed to (including mine) and get to work.

Did I listen to Karol? Thank him for the advice?

Nope. That would be way too easy.

Instead, I did something else I don’t recommend. I argued with him.

Seriously. This is not smart. If you become friends with someone you admire, don’t waste their time complaining and rationalizing.

At this point in the evening, I happened to get really freaking lucky.

Instead of deciding I’m not worth his time any longer, Karol cut right through my rationalizations.

Too bad I’m stubborn. I still couldn’t hear him. I went to sleep. Still not listening. Still rationalizing.

Act II: But then…

This morning, I woke up, and I got it.

I’ve been abdicating my responsibility to control how much I take in – and subsequently how much energy I have left to produce.

It’s Marie and Laura’s job to promote the crap out of their program. It’s their job to enlist their friends to promote the crap out of their program.

It’s my job to cut off the stream when it becomes too much.

Marie and Laura provided an opt-out option for their e-mails (which I opted into, by the way). I chose not to use it. And then I chose to bitch about it.

Because I’m afraid.

I’m afraid to cut the stream. I’m afraid to miss some amazing opportunity that could change my life.

I’m afraid to unfollow you on Twitter, because OMG you might get offended.

I’m afraid to read fewer blogs, because I won’t be clued in.

I’m afraid of missing out.

And, so I am.

Act III: Getting to work.

I have guest posts to write. Marketing copy to finalize. Concepts to test.

Yet I’ve pretty much lost all my momentum in the last month. I set an end date at work, and promptly fizzled. Knowing that I’ll be self-employed in June took away my sense of urgency.

I’ve been feeling panicked about this crazy thing I’ve sent into motion, and I’m reverting to bad habits.

No more.

No one else can do this for me.

I’m getting back to work and trusting that my plan is a good one.

Is fear holding you back, too? Tell me in the comments. Let’s keep each other accountable

 

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