I Believe in the New Media Revolution — Or Do I?

February 20, 2010

Nowadays, every company is a media company. Production and distribution tools are accessible for even the smallest organizations. Companies know that if they are not leveraging these tools to build relationships with potential partners and clients, their competitors will be. This is good news for me and my classmates as we enter the job market. Our degrees are in communications, but we can apply them in virtually any field.

I like that I have options. This safety net is one reason I enrolled. But it’s not the reason. I enrolled foremost so that I could stay in the field I love, journalism. I feel that strong, independent news media are essential to the civic health of communities and that new media can produce journalism as good as — if not better than — this country’s ever seen. To borrow one of the more successful — but still parodied — slogans of my native Baltimore, I BELIEVE. And I want others to BELIEVE. But maybe I shouldn’t. Not completely. Maybe I should embrace what media scholar Robert W. McChesney calls “healthy skepticism.”

For all the talk of the Internet as a great empowerer, as a great uniter, isn’t it equally as plausible, McChesney argues, that it will be a great marginalizer, a great isolater?

Um, sure. For all the people getting ahead with new technology there are people without access falling behind. For all the people using the Web to connect with the world around them there are people using it to shut the world out.

Good reasons for me to spit out the new media Kool-Aid. Not because technology’s leading us to some kind of hell on Earth instead of the heaven more commonly imagined. But because it’s leading us somewhere in between. And because the more heavenly people assure themselves tomorrow’s going to be the more hellish it’s going to become.

You see, it is not enough to merely believe. While a passive majority goes on believing the Internet is going to be great for the greater good an active minority will make it great for itself and bad for everybody else, all the while fanning the majority’s naivety.

True believers act on their beliefs. And routinely question them.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewbain/ | CC BY 2.0

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