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Point of view is everything

Monday, November 24, 2008 by Dave Winer.

A picture named icbm.gifOkay we could bail out the newspaper business, I'm sure that's what the owners of the newspapers are thinking, but this can't happen -- not in the United States. The day the government owns the newspapers would be the exact moment there stopped being a news business. If it happens we will immediately be on our own. Permalink to this paragraph

Anyway, after all the perspective-altering news last week about the economy, reading Jeff Jarvis's essay on how to cure the ills of the news business was a bit of nostalgia for the good old days and showed me why Jeff has good attendance at his conferences among people who want to believe in The Long Tail, and in the primacy of the 20th century model for news and entertainment, but it was very clear to me why that point of view is now completely irrelevant. Permalink to this paragraph

This is the point of view of news that's relevant: the point of view of the user of news. Permalink to this paragraph

A user wants to know how he or she is going to get news. Permalink to this paragraph

And when they see lies and BS in the news, they think about how they can get accurate information. Permalink to this paragraph

Watch the Frontline episode on the life of Lee Atwater for a reminder of the value of what we call news. In 1988, the Republicans figured it out -- the industry view of news is a story, the story need have nothing to do with reality. The news organizations don't care. When a series of "facts" about Michael Dukakis scrolled in front of a video of him riding in a tank wearing a funny helmet, the news guys made a note they should check out these facts, but they never did. They have a news reporter on the record saying that. They turned out to be nonsense, yet the news guys played the ad over and over for free cause they enjoyed making fun of Dukakis who they thought was pompous and they wanted to take him down a notch. Some way to choose a President, eh? Permalink to this paragraph

Think about news as its constituent components, not in the bizarro news world we live in, think about news in the actual world. The components are: sources, facts, ideas, opinions, readers. Permalink to this paragraph

The challenge of the news industry, to the extent that there is one, is to connect the first four items with the last item. I don't think you need a reporter and editor to do that. I don't think they were doing their jobs anyway, they were being very selective about what sources, facts, ideas and opinions we could have.  Permalink to this paragraph

I want it all, and I don't want anyone saying what I can and can't have. Permalink to this paragraph

That's why Jarvis's outline of the salvation of the news industry is a nightmare, an old nightmare, one that we're finally waking up from.  Permalink to this paragraph

And luckily, just at the moment the news industry is breathing its last breath, we have the tools to build our own. I hope we have the will to use them. They are the tools we call Web 2.0 -- blogs, Twitter, FriendFeed, Digg, Delicious, wikis, etc. Permalink to this paragraph

Now, I'm not glad to see the news industry go that way, I've been pleading with them to embrace the future, to stop fighting it, to accept the changes, to give up their point of view. I think it's still possible to do it, and save some of what they've built, but not so much anymore. But it's going to take some major shifting of point of view to get there. And us users don't really have much reason to care anymore. Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

"The protoblogger." - NY Times.

"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.

One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.

"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.

"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.

"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.

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