With the Internet serving as a sea of information, a growing problem that people will face is how they will obtain that information. In the past, mainstream media served as our fishermen, and we knew which ones took their boats out to the sea. Now that people are given their own nets and told to “go fishing” the overwhelming amount of information that is on the Web proves to be both a blessing and a curse.
Even with newer technologies such as RSS that allow the user to browse before selecting, it is up to the user to designate from which pools he or she will receive the feeds from in the first place. Therefore, even though the Internet provides infinite news/information, the ocean has no meaning unless the user actually decides to set sail and explore the contents.
That is fine when one is searching for information on a particular topic, but what about other information that the user is ignorant about? The user may be very interested in that information, but not know about it unless it were specifically pointed out. How many times in life do we find that it is the knowledge of new information and surprise encounters that leads to entirely new interests and sometimes a different outlook on life itself?
Clearly, individuals are not going to have time to be constantly browsing the Internet in blind search for exotic fish. I therefore anticipate that in the future, the role of online news editors will become more prominent. People will not be receiving their feeds from the NYT or Washington Post, but from, for instance, a Web media firm that does nothing but compile news and other tidbits for a certain Interest group. In a sense, that is why the power of bloggers is rising. Some people have very original insights, and there are others that enjoy those views.
On the other hand, since news selection is so vital, we may want to question whether or not Yahoo and Google are not media firms. If we click on Google News, there are top headlines, but who decides on which headline goes on top? When collapsed, the main headline is not always the most recently updated article. Does this mean Google has more editorial power and if it received money, could it emphasize (or hide) some of the news?
On the Internet, it all boils down to “how” a user receives information. “Who can we trust?” is probably a question that more and more people will want an answer for.
[Feedback from Gene]
Yvette, seems like “trust” is the beginning of a potential answer to some of these questions. I imagine “trust” is the basis of our relationship with MSM, and also with blogs. Some of us trust Fox, others CNN — most of us seem to trust Google, too. Perhaps one future area of study is how different types of people form different relationships of trust: some trust individuals and want to hear a “voice;” others trust institutions and seek “fair and objective.” How do issues of trust influence you as a journalist?