Below is an article written by Bernard Wax for Net4TV Voice . Mr. Wax and Net4TV have been kind enough to let us reprint that article in this Webring Report.
Coast to Coast
Thoughts On Old And New Media
In my last column I tried to give everyone an idea of how I came to be writing for Net4TV Voice. When the idea was first proposed to me I was a bit reluctant to accept the invitation because I saw Net4TV Voice as a Zine primarily focused on the technological aspects of the Internet and WebTV. Several long telephone conversations assured me that Net4TV Voice had no problem with my writing about anything my heart desired. At that point my eyes lit up and I responded with an unqualified yes!
I must say, even though I've been on WebTV and the Internet for nearly 3 years, there's an awful lot I don't understand about this new technology and media. However, I feel I'm at the frontier of something that has a tremendous potential for individual empowerment, unlike anything else I've seen in my entire lifetime.
While many people believe there is unfettered freedom of the press in our country, just how free can that press be if they're funded by millions of dollars of advertising from outside sources?
Special interests permeate our society and special interests get what they pay for - the advancement of their personal or corporate political agendas. I don't know of a single American newspaper, television or radio station that doesn't have a Board of Trustees, publisher or editors pushing a specific political philosophy or personal agenda, and usually at the expense of their readership. Someone once said, "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own the press".
The amazing thing about the World Wide Web is that for a nominal outlay of money, each of us has the wherewithal for mass distribution of our ideas to the world at large. In the past this was confined to people of significant means, but is now wide open to the average person. What we read, hear and see will be profoundly influenced by average people like you and I, not by advertisers' money, or special interests with private agendas, or people seeking to further expand their already powerful positions.
For the most part, those who call the shots in the conventional media endorse the exclusion of the same people that buy their newspapers, listen to their radio stations and watch their news reports on television. This is perverse elitism at it's worst. Yes, you can write letters to the editor and then some; but the important stuff, like deciding what news is covered when, is left up to those in the offices of editorial boards and news directors.
So, what do we get from these wise men and women in broadcast and print journalism? A few months ago I picked up a local paper in New York City, and on the front page was some story about Michael Jackson (it must have been major, it was on the front page of the newspaper)! I smiled as I plunked down my two bits thinking that someone at that newspaper had decided that on this day it was important that I know about Michael Jackson. Maybe the editor who made that decision was Janet Jackson. Why not put Bugs Bunny on the front page? It would give the same message to readers that the Michael Jackson story did.
The process that is used to decide what news I receive is based on what? Considering everything of major importance that was going on in the world on that day, someone decided John Q. Public needed to read about Michael Jackson and put the story on page one with a big headline. The American Society of Newspaper Editors would probably disagree with me and say that some highly complex process is involved in making decisions about what news is given to the public.
On the other hand, the potential of this new technology to end the status quo in the world of communications and make news worth reading or viewing again is both refreshing and invigorating. At the same time I also find it disturbing.
Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates (currently worth an estimated 85 billion dollars), in the beginning said, (paraphrased) "we'll change the way the world communicates." I don't know if that was Bill Gates' true intention or he just wanted a piece of everything that used his Microsoft software. Could he really have had any idea how much impact his company would have on worldwide communication?
The disturbing part are the individuals, groups and organizations who use the Internet to distribute messages of hate; or use this technology in other irresponsible ways that don't serve the overall interests of a peace loving, God fearing society who respect one another. Examples of this have been seen over the past two years as the Internet community has grown to over sixty million users in the United States. While I won't even attempt to define the parameters of Internet use, I believe many would agree that those who would use the Internet to injure others should find no avenue for their harmful activities.
The mechanisms are in place for the Internet community to police itself. Chat rooms where visitors hurl profanities at each other do not uplift, but only diminish the Internet in the eyes of many who have a vested interest in seeing the Internet NOT succeed. In my opinion, those entities are the conventional media who have lost huge numbers of readers, viewers and listeners to the Internet in the past five years, which translates into the loss of the corporate bottom line - money.
The point is, unless the Internet strongly polices aberrant behavior on the Internet, our government will step in, claiming to save us all, and wind up trying to control every aspect of the Internet via heavy regulation.
Should that government intervention occur on a mass scale, we can all kiss our Internet freedom goodbye. Once such controls or laws are in place, they will not go away. Therefore, responsible, enlightened, uplifting use of the Internet should be a number one priority and I hope that all who use the World Wide Web will strive for that goal.
For too long many in the conventional media have treated the general public like children. Many editors and news directors feel that the public at large can be force fed anything, irregardless of the consequences to our society as a whole, which results in the irresponsible dissemination of news on a wholesale basis.