One case in point.


It's an old story (by internet standards). I don't know if it was the first of its kind, though I'm sure than since this particular incident numerous others have occurred. Back in 1999 Jane's Intelligence Review, a respected journal on numerous defense and intelligence issues, was preparing an article on cyberterrorism. The editors at Jane's decided to solicit some reactions before publication, and in order to do so posted the article to Slashdot, where it was known that numerous readers/contributors were well informed on the issue.

The response was overwhelming, and overwhelmingly critical. So critical that the editors at Jane's decided to pull the story and rewrite it completely, incorporating numerous points that the Slashdot readers had raised. Andrew Leonard wrote a short but very informative piece on the incident in Salon. His review seemed primarily concerned with the extent to which the communities of expertise that were then taking shape on the internet were exerting influence, even though they didn't necessarily have any official authority. And this was, of course, before blogging became a recognized phenomenon.

Among other things, Leonard quotes some negative comments on the issue by Robert X. Cringely in what turns out to be a fascinating article itself. Cringely informs us, for instance that:
The Associated Press came into being in the 19th century as a way of leveraging that Internet of its own era, the telegraph. The AP was a news service literally a "wire service," it was so tied to telegraphy that supplied news from out of town to newspapers all over America and the world. As a business (the AP was paid only for those stories actually used by its member papers), the wire service had to maximize the popularity of its content. This was done in two very different fashions. First, the AP invented objectivity. The concept that the press was unbiased came from nothing so much as the AP's need to sell the same story to both Republican and Democratic newspapers. An objective story being the least objectionable was the easiest sell.
And this suggests that perhaps our modern conception of "objectivity" which has become so deeply ingrained in the way we relate to information, hasn't always been such a central concept. And if that's the case, perhaps we shouldn't weep too much if the continued success of blogs, and other tools such as wikis, seem to be causing a deterioration of what was formerly considered a rather iron objectivity.



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