Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 9:12 AM

Denton vs "Sources Go Direct"

I have a little story I want to tell.

Five years ago, when I was a visiting person at NYU J-school, I organized an afternoon seminar, a discussion between three leaders in the local Internet business community, about a topic very dear to me -- Sources Go Direct.

The three panelists: Rachel Haot, Fred Wilson and Nick Denton.

The discussion was to have been about the way news was organizing itself on the net, with the sources of the news going direct to the people who were interested in the news, without control of intermediaries.

My theory was that there would be a role for journalism in this new world, but it would be different from the role it played in the past. Now that the sources can go straight to the readers, the reporters would stop being sources themselves, and return to a more pure form of quote and fact gathering and presenting.

I still think that's the way it's going, but my panelists didn't agree! Especially Denton, who told a story about how when he was a budding software entrepreneur in Silicon Valley in the early 2000s, he visited with me as a gatekeeper (a key idea for Denton) to get his ideas distributed. At that time, according to Denton, I was the equivalent of what Gawker was, then, in 2010.

I was shocked into silence. Denton wanted me to argue with him, but I wasn't prepared for that, being so sure that this was incorrect. I never wanted to be a gatekeeper, quite the opposite. I was trying to be a lead-by-example proponent of the Sources Go Direct philosophy, before it had that name. When Denton visited me in in February 2000 for Spicy Noodles at Jing Jing in Palo Alto, I wasn't a journalist gatekeeper, I was the CEO of a tech company, just like Denton, who was going direct. In my case it was out of necessity, the gatekeepers (who certainly existed!) weren't carrying the story I wanted them to. They were imho stuck, and as a result so was I, and I desperately wanted to get unstuck. So I skipped the intermediaries and went direct, using something that would later come to be known as a blog.

I wrote about Denton and our dinner because it was something I did that was interesting to me. Not because I felt I was in control of his destiny, and if I had thought that was the case, I would do whatever I could to get rid of that power.

In fact something like that happened, after I gave a talk to a group of bloggers on Prince Edward Island in October 2003. They felt I was in the way of their growth. I was surprised to hear it, so I took steps to get out of their way. I guess it's hard for some people to understand that I really believe the hype. The world isn't the same after the net as it was before. It was Denton's belief then that nothing had changed. The people who were gatekeepers were different, but there were still gatekeepers. I thought that gatekeepers were, like the rest of the elite, becoming less powerful because the nature of world-wide communication was changing.

But it's funny that Denton, with his investment in editorial tools for his readers, actually made the bet on Sources Go Direct. So while his publication was focused on the rear-ends of the elite, he was empowering his readers to write without going through the people he paid to manage the gates. I just don't think the anuses of the rich and famous are all that interesting. I wonder if there are others who feel the same.

I also wonder if Denton eventually got tired of being a gatekeeper. It must be exhausting!

Last built: Mon, Aug 24, 2015 at 9:04 AM

By Dave Winer, Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at 9:12 AM. What a long strange trip it's been.