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Is it news if it's not reported?

Saturday, July 04, 2009 by Dave Winer.

A picture named mwom.gifA piece I wrote from Berlin has become one of the most-quoted pieces I've ever written. Maybe I should travel more often. Getting out of the country, writing while America sleeps, 120-degrees of jetlag, all seem good for whacking quotable phrases out of my brain. Permalink to this paragraph

Yesterday Jeff Jarvis quoted a line from that piece. "The sources never got paid. So the news was always free, it was the reporting of it that cost." Permalink to this paragraph

Which inspired a thread by two-time Pulitzer winner Howard Weaver, who I visited by train in Sacramento in June. In that thread Weaver said something that I couldn't respond to in a mere 140 characters. It was that good. Permalink to this paragraph

Weaver: "Is it news if it's not reported? I don't think so." Permalink to this paragraph

Weaver is the perfect foil because he says things like that. He's not wrong, given his background, where he spent his youth, his level of accomplishment, his justifiable pride, he has to think that. Permalink to this paragraph

And equally, given all my experience, I have to think the other way. Permalink to this paragraph

I blogged because there was news the press wasn't reporting.  Permalink to this paragraph

4/5/97: "The press only knows three stories, Apple is dead, Microsoft is evil, and Java is the future." Permalink to this paragraph

I understand this is a semantic debate. Weaver chooses to define news as what was reported. I choose to see news everywhere, that it exists before it is reported, that reporting isn't even a necessary part of the news. I see his view as the means by which the press controlled us, but that control is slipping. Permalink to this paragraph

An example of the futility.  Permalink to this paragraph

I was shocked for about 20 seconds to hear that Sarah Palin had resigned as Alaska governor. It was news the instant she made the announcement. I had to rush out to a lunch meeting at the Jupiter in downtown Berkeley. When I got back, it slipped my mind that there was a "breaking story" I could watch on CNN. I noticed some bloggers talking about it. I thought to tune in for about 5 seconds, even got so far as locating the SlingPlayer icon on my desktop. But before I could click, I was already bored. Permalink to this paragraph

At least for me, the reporters are as irrelevant as paper delivery of the NYT, WSJ and SJM had become in 1994. I know what they're going to say before they say it. I also don't feel their ability to set an agenda anymore. The only reason Palin has any viability is that the press remembers who she is. For me, and I'd bet a huge chunk of the electorate, she's a fading memory of an election we've put way behind us as we've turned to face our futures. For me the last election was only important in that it got Bush and the Republicans out. Having accomplished that, I don't care what the press thinks is news. I decide that for myself now. Permalink to this paragraph

I guess that's the point I'd like to make in response to Howard's excellent quote. I decide what's news. I don't delegate that. Maybe others want to accept the filter of the press, that's their right. But I don't care what they think is news. It's not that I decided not to care, it's that I truly don't care. Permalink to this paragraph

PS: To be clear, I do care what Weaver thinks is news. Perhaps that's the subject of another piece, or perhaps something to talk about on Monday's RTNPermalink to this paragraph

Update: Jeff Jarvis advances the discussion. Permalink to this paragraph

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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 54, 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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