The view from the top

There is a growing acceptance of bloggers and blogging among mainstream media executives, although there are still lingering questions about the role of blogging as media and as to how it “fits” with culture. This picture emerged from Wednesday’s gathering in New York of media executives, media observers and bloggers at the Museum of Television and Radio.

Several times during the meeting, I noted to myself the extraordinary nature of some of the comments from TV and print execs that would not have been heard even a year ago. Andrew Heyward, president of CBS News, noted three areas where his thinking has been changed. From my notes:

  • A breakdown of our formulas. We’re being influenced by bloggers and this idea of conversation
  • The illusion of omniscience is out of date, this idea that everything has an answer and that there’s one truth.
  • The notion that journalism with a point-of-view is an acceptable form.

I thought that was remarkable.

Jay Rosen said something terribly important that (imo) went over the heads of most people in the room. He said the nature of authority is changing in our culture, and that this directly impacts all media. He used the example of a person who goes to the doctor and gets a prescription for an ailment. The doctor explains how the medication will work. The patient then proceeds to the drugstore and receives the medicine, along with (perhaps) an explanation from the pharmacist about how the medicine will work. But then the patient goes home and gets on the internet to research the thoughts of others who’ve used the medicine to discover what THEY think about how it works, and this impacts the doctor’s authority. The doctor is still the doctor, but gone is the automatic acceptance of his or her words as gospel. This is new in our world, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s the major challenge of all institutional authority, and it’s one of the truly fascinating things about a culture drifting into postmodernism.

Another thing that was obvious at this meeting was the growing enmity between big mainstream media and companies like Yahoo! Bloggers, it would seem, don’t pose nearly the threat that hip, technology-savvy, and cash flush disrupters in the media space bring to the table.

On a personal note, it was great fun to finally meet David Weinberger, Jay Rosen and Tim Porter. It was also great to see Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmor again. These are among the most tuned-in people on the planet, and I was honored to be on the same panel with them (thanks, Jeff).

The only thing disquieting about the group was its whiteness. Of the couple dozen people on the panel, all were white and three were women.

Finally, a couple of notes about New York. Status on the streets of the city is determined by the number and size of colorful little bags that one carries. Some of these bags, I swear, are more costly than the goods they conceal. New York IS about shopping.

And then there are the urinals in Terminal Four at Kennedy. Made by American Standard, each has the black image of a fly imbedded in the porcelain. The damned things look very real and serve as a perfect “target,” which, I assume, is the point.


  1. Jeffrey Alan says
  2. Different urinal. Same concept though.

  3. Terry, nice meeting you at the confab. I’ve never noticed those flies, but are you sure they’re not real? I’m going to have to wear my glasses more.

  4. Terry,
    I always think your observations are on target. Most of the confabs like this that I attend are light on people of color and include a few women as tokens.

    We are out there, and it is perceptive people like you who notice the glaring absence from these meetings.
    barbara i

  5. “The illusion of omniscience is out of date, this idea that everything has an answer and that there’s one truth.”

    Maybe you should check your definitions, or your logic. Voiding everyone’s claim to omniscience says nothing about the existence of answers and truth, it just says that no one has them all.

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