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Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Mar 08, 2007

Response to Amy Gahran.

Off the top of my head I can name dozens of people who are performing heroic journalism for niche markets. The vast majority of them are not of the crackpot ilk, but rather, have established a loyal readership by being steady, reliable and informed commentators. I consider myself to be one of them.

Yes, the costs are not zero. So, strictly speaking, the media revolution is limited to those with the means. But what is different now is that wile, in the past, only large media outlets had the means, today, millions upon millions have the means. And yes, it costs me money to produce what I produce. It's a net loss proposition. But you know - so what?

Alex Dering takes pains to point out to us that people cannot afford computer access, that people are going hungry. "There are people going hungry right now, and there are people going hungry without internet access, too. Got that? Good." Quite so. But hunger - which kills thousands of people a day - is pushed off the front pages by things like Paris Hilton and Anna Nicole Smith.

The stuff most of these niche journalists produce never makes the front pages. I write about online learning, which a stated objective of providing a free education to every person on the planet. In the commercial press, such an objective is almost treason.

Amy Gahran talks about trust - "people really do want to know what information and which sources they should trust." We all know that they cannot trust the professional media, which demonstrates over and over again that it is open to the highest bidder (and today, while organizations at the Times practice their mea culpas, the entire nation of Iraq suffers an ongoing agony as a result).

But people do not live in a vacuum. They form networks of trusted individuals - called, variously, friends or colleagues - who pass on good sources of information. The good online sources do not need to market themselves.

And *this* site has a 2000 character limit in comments. What are they scared of? Me?! (And it can't count to 2000 correctly either)

Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada

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