chickens … roost

There are glimmers of hope that the chickens may be coming home to roost. Accountability in both the signal and the noise may be on the rise. There is a transparency that makes it easier to find out what is really going on outside the window.

OK, enough with the allegories and confusing analogy. How does it all fit together?

The Northeast Dilemma set a message to the New England Republican posted under The Tragedy of Dan Rather. The message described how Rathergate coupled with observations about media response to the many Clinton scandals has created a skepticism or even cynicism about the credibity of what used to be thought of as reliable sources of information. This, in turn, lead to “question[s about] the reality of events that forced Nixon’s resignation and the US withdrawl from Vietnam.”

What we know and understand is always flavored by the windows through which we see and perceive events. There is a signal or truth of the matter and there is noise which makes it difficult to make a good picture out of what we see. It is like trying to catch everything on a TV show when something is disrupting the signal and causing dropouts, interference, and a snowy picture. It used to be that such poor quality pictures were accepted as the norm but now, when cable has taken over for the rabbit ear antenna and high definition TV with stunning picture quality is becoming the norm, we begin to see just how noisy our previous view actually was.

The internet is doing to news what better signals have done to TV. They have increased the transparency of the window through which we see things. This transparency means that we can hold those presenting the view more accountable for truth and accuracy in their presentation.

The internet is also a source of noise, too. Anyone can easily put their own perceptions out as ‘truth.’ The matters of accountability no longer belong in the realm of credible sources but rather in each individual’s own measures.

Contrasting the Jordan and Gannon stories illustrates this. Both are news professionals who resigned because of revelations by people on the internet. One was the Executive Vice President of a major news network and the other an independent reporter for a small network funded by partisan sources. One suffered due to revelations about US military bashing and the other for being soft in interview questions presented to the administration. One showed a long history of similar behavior culminated by a significant event and the other suffered a smear machine of allegation and innuendo. In one case, the internet effort was to get the truth on the table and in the other it was to reveal a perceived dirty trick.

Are the chickens coming home to roost? Maybe. There are signs that people are being held to account for their words and deeds. Whether it is a college professor or a news executive, what they say is being made transparent and the implications revealed.

Has accountability improved? Both the stimulating event and the reporting of that event are being examined by many sources. It is more difficult to let important stories drop through the cracks as illustrated by the Jourdan case. It is more difficult to prop up straw men as in the Gannon case.

The transparency is in the many who seek out information, compile data from many sources, and critique each other. Serious ideas and challenges become important by the weight of their intellectual integrity. Trivial ideas and challenges are punctured, deflated, and humiliated. It is easier than ever before for anyone who really wants to know to get up close to the window and see more the world with less distortion than ever before.

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