tecznotes

Michal Migurski's notebook, listening post, and soapbox. Subscribe to this blog. Check out the rest of my site as well.

Dec 10, 2005 8:15pm

pressthink groks bob woodward

PressThink:

In theory we send these people out to report back to us. Some of them penetrate the secret worlds of national security and government policy-making on our behalf. But if they keep going into the secret world they can come under the gravitational pull of another planet--the people in power, the secret-makers themselves. They're still sending back their reports, but have left our universe, so to speak.

It's a fascinating essay about the effects of access on insight. In this case, Bob Woodward comes under heavy scrutiny for his unique combination of top-level access and personal incuriousity. Arianna Huffington calls him "the dumb blonde of American journalism, so awed by his proximity to power that he buys whatever he's being sold." It's easy to forget that Woodward's big break in the Watergate case came at a time he was a lowly Metro desk writer, an unexpected source of pressure.

A few things occured to me as I read this:

  1. The cyclical (or pendular?) nature of access. Yesterday's outsider is today's insider. Today's bomb-throwing bloggers at the gates of the mass media are going to be tomorrow's establishment commentators. Lee Gomes describes this change in a recent WSJ article.
  2. The value of independents. Yesterday's announcement of Yahoo!'s purchase of Del.icio.us is a bit of a bummer. It'd be nice to have strong web firms that aren't part of the GYM, but right now everyone's getting bought. Like Bob Woodward's investigative journalism, enclosure within Yahoo! can't possibly be doing much good for anyone connected to Del.icio.us except its employees and investors.
  3. The value of independence. Keeping out means keeping perspective. How many fantasy & sci-fi stories are based on the premise that power corrupts, and diving too deeply into black magic affects your ability to reason? This is tremendously important (in my industry, anyway) at this moment that all the little guys are either bought, or trying hard to be. I ought to try to keep this in mind as I head for the lions' den this March.
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