Something I said in that Reno News and Review article struck a nerve then and came up again yesterday. I think it’s a very important statement and one that should not be construed as either condescending or inaccurate.
Here’s the exact quote:
“People are starting their own sites to be mini newspapers. I’m against that. I want my readers to tell me things about the things I know, and when we put them together we’re all better off for it. The mindset of the public has to change for that to happen, and until everyone realizes that’s really what they want, we’ll be stuck in a rut.”
What does it mean? Newspapers have been doing things one way for longer than any of us have been alive. They send reporters out into the world to interview people, write down what they say, and pass along a condensed version for all of us to read. Then, the next day, they do the same thing on a different subject. While it is certainly useful to people to get their news this way, it is hardly the model for democratic thinking that I would like to see. You can’t have reflective, democratic thinking without conversation.
That’s where the new media comes in. The news is the news. It’s the same everywhere you go. And you can’t try and act like you’re the only one who can give it. So what becomes new is the conversation about the news. That conversation serves to make the news into a discussion where participants can make the other participants more knowledgable about the events that took place, which prompted the news in the first place. And why do you and I read news? To become more knowledgable.
That’s where the part about making people realize it’s what they want comes in. Currently, people read the news or watch the news and that’s the end of it. There isn’t a better way to discuss it except for the conversations you might have at work or with friends. But who gets together just for the sake of discussing news? Not very many of us. Online is the place for this to happen. Specifically, blogs offer the perfect avenue for conversatons to start and continue. Bloggers are both reporting news and acting as critics of news and policies. Already throughout blogs there are comments, discussions, arguments, honest discourse, dishonest discourse, lies, truth, pressure on officials, pressure on citizens, and action. Just like in the news.
If the purpose for reading the news is to become more knowledgable — about the world, events, or your area — then conversing about the news with other people seeking that knowledge is where you should naturally head. If you don’t buy it, then I’d have to think that you haven’t tried it yet. And I mean really tried it. Engage with people who aren’t going to scream you down for voicing an opinion that doesn’t jive with whatever mantra is presented. Seek out places where good, solid, logical conversation can be had. Don’t visit places known for their devotion to a political issue or party. Real conversation can rarely be had there anyway.
That’s my simple (as in not completely formed) vision for a community website. People could contribute news and discuss existing news. Logic would prevail in those discussions. And knowledge would be a key product of all of it. It sounds pretty idealistic and probably unachievable. It’s limit, as I see it, lies only with the people that choose to do it or not do it. But without a solid basis for getting it done, you might as well not even start.