Tuesday, March 08, 2005

The First Draft of History

The blogosphere, not journalism, is now the first draft of history.

Bret Stephens (great journalist, ignoring the kerfuffle) observes in today's WSJ:

The cliché is that journalism is the first draft of history. Yet a historian searching for clues about the origins of many of the great stories of recent decades -- the collapse of the Soviet empire; the rise of Osama bin Laden; the declining American crime rate; the economic eclipse of Japan and Germany -- would find most contemporary journalism useless.

He suggests to the MSM:

It shouldn't be too difficult to do better. Look for the countervailing data. Broaden your list of sources.Beware of exoticizing your subject... Above all, never forget the obvious: that the law of supply and demand operates in Japan, too; that the Soviet Union was a state governed by fear; that Iraqis aren't rooting for their killers; that, if given the chance, people will choose to be free.

Sounds familiar? Right, the blogosphere! That anarchic mixture of facts, analysis, criticism and peer review. And, ranting, deception, moonbats and trolls. A ruthless market of thousands of sources, where quality tends to survive.

Back in 2003 in Virgina I got my information from just 4 sources: the (paper) WSJ, Fox News channel, and BBC & London Telegraph on-line. Then, visiting London during Iraqi Freedom, I watched on TV a BBC correspondent standing in front of a picture of the White House solemnly assuring the British public that US public opinion did not support the war. Which was a Big Fat Lie.

So, I dropped the BBC as a source and began adding new ones using Google & links from existing sources. If they added value & did not lie, they stayed, and so it grew. Now, over breakfast, I skim though not 4 but 30 sources.

One thing is needed for the blogosphere to qualify as that first draft - persistent archives. Maybe the top 20,000 blogs worldwide, recorded daily. Not too many terabytes and the archives are out there, just needs co-ordinating and disaster proofing. Now there's an interesting business, if only I could figure out the revenue model...