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Reporting in eight directions

The community push to syndicate every viewpoint, every post, through semi-interoperable standards like RSS and Atom has resulted in a dramatic shift in the media power balance; media organizations can no longer embargo certain topics, hoping they'll fade into the background noise. In most media organizations (newspapers, radio stations, etc.), you can find topics that are "blacklisted"; I'd never turn to Fox News to hear more about how Fox nearly sued itself over a Simpsons episode; I'd never turn to a corporation's blog to read more about one of their internal memos. In each case, I can rightly presume – these days – that they'll put their short-term interests ahead of longer-term goals, such as honesty and forthrightness.

The problem with embargoes is that they have a dramatic effect, in a world where the media is controlled by a few, not many. I pick up my local newspaper these days to understand how they think people are thinking; they provide a good viewpoint, and state it clearly. That's only one viewpoint, though — and if something were to happen that was an embarrassment to its financial supporters, I'm reasonably certain it'd never see the light of day, either as an article or an editorial.

That's why I read hundreds of RSS feeds. These days, everyone has an opinion (1.5 million people at Blogger, 1 million people at LiveJournal); this results in a new problem, isolating viewpoints I'm interested in hearing more about. I can guarantee that if one person refuses to talk about an issue, another person will happily do so (and probably already has); with millions of viewpoints on millions of things to choose from, I can tap an endless supply of opinion and fact to educate myself more effectively than I ever could with my local paper alone.

It's like Master George Xu said: You must be moving in eight directions. If someone blocks you one direction, you have seven other directions to move in; no matter what direction is blocked, there's always several left to you.

Eventually my local paper will discover the joys of syndicating the news, either for free or for profit, and then I'll be able to include their selection of viewpoints in my daily education. They don't seem to right now, though, and while their viewpoints are valuable enough, they're not enough to pull me to their site more than once a month (or less) — or to subscribe to the print edition, their primary revenue source. Sometimes I miss the local news, though; I'd happily pay for a monthly electronic-only subscription, if one was offered.

Note: I'm speaking in theoretical terms here. I don't have any inside information about my local paper, nor do I wish to disparage them; they're good people. My words apply to virtually every local paper I've read, in many locales (with a few exceptions, like The Portland Mercury); if you have an unbiased, non-corporate exception, pass it along and I'll link it here, too.

Comments

I keep hearing about this RSS aggregation blah blah blah. Do you use a program to aggregate these things or do you code something into a webpage, or do you use a program to code the aggregated stuff into a webpage? Last time I Googled it, I just confused myself.

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