A Young Valley
Friday, March 28, 1997 by Dave Winer.
It's almost April in California (everywhere else too) and that can only mean one thing. Flowers! Going outside is like stepping into a perfume factory. Every fruit tree is bearing flowers. Inhale deeply and smile. It's great to be alive. The message is in the air.
Hey it smells cheesy out back, where the bee traps are still holding their catches from last summer. The cheesy smell comes from a fertilizer that I applied earlier in the week. Powerful stuff! As cheesy as it smells today, it will be just as fragrant in a few weeks when the jasmine and roses and sweet peas are in bloom.
This is a very special time of year. The moon, the comet, the sun, migrating birds and flowers. The hills are green. The creeks are running. Birds everywhere, some with huge wingspans, some with beautiful songs. Frogs!
It pays to pay attention this time of year.
Have you noticed that the San Jose Mercury-News is becoming a national publication? Yesterday they got the Larry Ellison scoop. It was picked up all over the world. According to a report in the San Jose Mercury-News... It's good for flow.
San Jose has been near the center of the high tech industry for several generations, but the Mercury has just been a stepping-stone for reporters who eventually seek national prominence thru pubs like the Wall Street Journal and Business Week.
Now the web is making the Mercury-News important. They cover Apple, and Apple is a famous international company. Thru the web you can read the Merc anywhere in the world. They understand this and they're investing.
Compared to Washington or New York, San Jose is a very young place. Power is crudely managed here. Larry Ellison is a great example.
He broadcasts his business aspirations casually in a recorded interview with a Mercury reporter. He broadcasts his sexual needs on national TV. He emerges looking like a lout, a bully, a child, and maybe this is true to who he is.
Contrast this to a report on the CNNfn website that Federal Reserve Bank chairman Alan Greenspan is marrying his longtime sweetheart, Andrea Mitchell of NBC News. Clearly there's a deep network of respect in Washington. Both Mitchell and Greenspan are powerful people. The piece reflects that.
I'm not endorsing either system, but there is a difference in maturity, both in the stories and the coverage.
I listen to Gil Amelio speak yesterday in the Merc, and I don't believe him. I want the reporter to dig in, to challenge with meaningful questions. To discover whether he really knows what he's doing. To test his intellect the way Washington journalists test Greenspan.
I want the reporter to have a network of trusted friends who are intimately involved with what's going on. I want his statements judged, with the highest journalistic techniques, and with courage, and no concern about whose feelings get hurt.
Amelio was relatively unknown before he took over at Apple. Now his ideas are being tested publicly. The proper perspective of a journalist -- Amelios come and go, but we'll still be here. Is the baby being thrown out with the bathwater? Without a doubt. Let's take a close look at those babies as we say goodbye.
Net-net: public figures, people who claim to lead, are subject to deeper questioning, in a public way, than people who stay private.
Yesterday, www.sjmercury.com got pointers from www.cnn.com, www.nytimes.com, www.hotwired.com and my site, www.scripting.com, and dozens of others places. The flow must have been incredible (I'd like to meet their webmaster!)
Look at how they're branching out and growing. They're illustrating an important lesson about growth via the web -- you can win by serving communities. They start from San Jose and branch out from there.
If you think the goal is to bring people to your website, think again. The winning goal is to bring your website to the people, not to bring people to your website.
Last week I had dinner with Chris Nolan, email@example.com, a new hire at the Mercury.
Nolan is covering the valley in a different way. Once-sacred angles are being considered. Prohibited questions are being asked.
Her roots are in east coast politics and business. Unlike past movement, the Merc is bringing people west, instead of sending people east. This is an interesting change in direction.
If you're part of the high tech community in California, you'll remember her name, soon I think.
As this piece was closing I got a pointer to a fascinating article written by John Ousterhout of Sun Labs, about scripting languages. He gets it right, as far as he goes. If you want to understand where I believe programming is going, some of that is in his piece.
We're barking up the same tree here. Viewing the world the same way, with different strengths.
Another sidebar. About a month ago I was offered an advisory and honorary position that I accepted with great pride and pleasure.
Here's the news -- I'm a Seybold Fellow. Thru the Seybold Seminars organization, part of Softbank, I'll be sending messages to the publishing world.
It's an important connection. The Seybold name is well-respected, and they're really smart people who I like to work with, and I have something to say to the publishing world. It's win-win, and if you've been reading my stuff, you know how important that is to me.
So thanks to Seybold Seminars for the honor!
PS: Even when a newspaper is on the web we'll still call it a paper. Just like we still go to the movies, long after the novelty of movement has worn off. Go for a ride in an automobile! What other kind of mobile is there? It's funny!