I think I’ll start writing some movie reviews here. I used to be a freelance performing arts critic for the St. Petersburg Times. Why do I feel like an ass writing this statement or any statement that begins with, “I used to…” Perhaps my shame is born of a force much stronger than this little five foot frame of mine. Our youth culture and the Internet are a potent combination hell bent on eradicating the virtues of experience and credentials. Hell bent in a totally casual way, of course. I am no Luddite; however I do mourn this nasty side effect of technology. I marvel that anyone, regardless of talent, can broadcast their views to the world in a nanosecond. The free speech loving, red tape hating woman in me laughs as the barriers tumble, as the gags of money and power rip apart. Yet, I wonder everyday how the talented, the balanced, the ethical will be heard amidst the cacophony of tweets and tags.
In a world where the citizen is journalist, where the journalist is analyst, where the analyst is vendor, where the vendor is government, who do we trust; where do we go for knowledge, advice or entertainment? Theories around credibility are central to the answer and I’ve been reading a lot in this department lately. Drs. Miriam Metzger and Andrew Flanagin at the University of California, Santa Barbara, are exploring this topic with fascinating research. It would appear that a less hierarchical, peer based model of credibility is emerging with the advent of digital media. Any kind of credibility would be a salve on my worry, but in a different study we learn that some who say they verify a source, actually do no such thing. This lack of self-awareness or worse, a propensity to fit an image perceived to be desirable (i.e. I tell you what you want to hear) is even more disturbing.
The Internet is aiding and abetting, producing Jayson Blairs like so many copulating bunnies. Maybe I’ve got it all wrong though. The Blair analogy is funny because the vaunted New York Times had plenty of warning about his poor–borderline criminal performance, yet he was not fired. Maybe my bastions of ethics, integrity and authority were always suspect and it is those very citizen journalists, the unwashed, the un-credentialed that will congeal in some magical, Internet wiki wiki way to become the new mass media. All I can say is: beware of bunnies.