The democratization of data provided by technologies (including the Web and its seemingly infinite capabilities) initially struck fear at the heart of professionals from industries across the board. By understanding the business processes and thus removing -– somewhat -– the smoke and mirrors of entire models, the fearful thinking went, we’d all be out of a job by Christmas.
As we documented in a great story the other day, the “Do It Yourself” brigade provides a really valuable service, not least to provide a kick up the ass to the establishment to do better. And as it turns out, the increased transparency throughout industry has emphasized how important it is to have trained professionals in place in businesses of every kind. But within the media in particular, it’s also time to move beyond the tired argument of ‘us’ [print] v ‘them’ [online].
BusinessWeek is doing its bit to attempt true, genuine integration of print with online. It’s a slow process, but it’s happening –- and it's important -- certainly not optional. And while old school print journalism may be backwards and out of touch in many regards, its philosophies and mantras still stand in the brave new media world. Good business practices (declaring conflicts of interest, etc, etc) are built into the system. That arcane practice – editing - is also a boon to every writer, no matter how good she or he is. I was talking to my colleague, Adam Aston, recently, whose wonderful Green Biz blog recently launched, and we jointly confessed our terror at posting blog entries without someone pointing out our inconsistencies and unraveled minds (feel free to have at it). We have to adapt for this format, but elsewhere on the site, these processes ensure that the standard of journalism that we produce is of a high standard, and helps to reassure readers that it’s worth coming back week after week to see what else we might have to say.
And with the arrival of sites such as YouTube, the fact that every man and his dog is now armed with a camera phone, and the knowledge that every article/statement/presentation is archived somewhere and available somehow also supplies a well-placed kick at us all, whatever industry we're in. If you knew that anything you had done, ever, could be waved in your face when you tried to contradict yourself and claim ‘I never!’ six months later, wouldn’t you focus on being as honest and open as possible in the first place? The same rule applies for CEOs and those in business whose deals and doings can be readily referred to by customers, clients or competitors who’d be just delighted to discover discrepancies and shout from the rooftops about them. That’s not to say people don’t ever get things wrong, but denying an unfortunate situation or trying to finagle your way out of trouble isn’t an option any more, and that can only be a Very Good Thing.
Jon Stewart and the Daily Show team put together a great, hilarious, disconcerting montage of Tony Snow discussing the Gonzales/attorneys debacle (though typically, I couldn’t find it when I searched for it on YouTube -- I'll keep looking), juxtaposing two pieces of film in which Snow directly contradicts himself. That wasn’t possible in the old days and while who knows exactly what effect, if any, that embarrassment might have on an apparently Teflon-coated White House, it reminds the rest of us that consistency in everything we do is key.