Friday, August 05, 2011

You Can't Put the Genie Back in the Bottle Again

Back in the old days, newspapers would ostensibly compete on the claim of which was the freest (independent) news source -- but in the new era, the quest now is to see which among them can exert the most control -- and get them (readers) back aboard, thinking only what they (editor-publishers) think is important, if not the actual limits of thought -- just like in the good old days before every forum became a two-way street -- if not an information superhighway.

That meant that no one person or organization actually controlled that flow, but every play could be a "jump ball" and anybody could play -- some being the best in the world at what they did -- even if nobody else knew what they did. That puts the ball firmly in the court of those who do -- while leaving the "middleman" of the
media way behind. That used to be the job of the media -- to be the middleman, in the exchange of information from the specialists, to the vast citizenry awaiting directives on what to think -- which is that dependency-codependency that arose in the 20th century as people migrated from stable rural communities into the accelerated paces of big city life and environs.

The pillar of stability and reliability thus became the big city newspaper, and then the broadcast networks. They assured us, they would be all one would ever need to know -- and was everything worth knowing. Those were simpler times before the flood of information released at the end of the 20th century, when it seemed to those traditional gatekeepers of information and political/social correctness, all hell broke loose.

But now that the situation has stabilized somewhat, it's time to reassert their authority -- in the new landscape, if they can first find out, what that is. And so we saw the Honolulu Star-Advertiser this week move towards an online subscription requirement for full participation and access to what they believe is their premium brand, as is their right to do. It's just that in the not-so-distant past, these newspapers all but (mis)represented themselves as quasi-governmental institutions -- as they proclaimed themselves the unofficial fourth branch of government, or merely, the lofty, irreproachable
fourth estate.

It's a great niche -- if one can get it, and they were not bashful at claiming it, or even better, owning it. So it was quite amusing to see them try to reclaim that former high ground they thought they used to own -- as lifetime entitlements. But many others caught on -- if that is all one has to do -- act like one owns the turf.

Thus their first tentative steps in that direction to reclaim their place in the pantheon of immortals, was quite obvious, if not impudent. Comments now were to be relegated to a much lower status than their much more highly vaunted articles and editorials, and new and improved industrial strength editing, censoring and suppression. That was very deliberate and unmistakable. Everything but their own writing and suasion, was just to be tossed in a large basket called "everything else," with no time stamp and independence apart from its subservience and subordination to their primary articles of singular importance. They were even to appear in much smaller print, and shouldn't be taken seriously -- when people had come to look forward to those forums and interchanges, as the evolving newer, better news(paper) of the future.

Once one opens
Pandora's Box, or lets the genie out of the bottle, it is very difficult if not impossible, to put it back in, and restores the world to the perfect state it was in previously. Everything has already changed -- irrevocably. But one knew, Hawaii would be the place, where somebody would try.


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