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Impact/Power of Internet

Jan 31, 1998 08:10 AM
by M K Ramadoss

I have posted several msgs pointing to the communication potential of
Internet. When recent Clinton problems arose, did the public read it in the
US Government Official Publication -- the Federal Register? No. It was
first on Internet. The following story I picked up from CNN site is very
informative and might interest many who are interested in Internet.

Specifically for Thesophists and Theosophical organizations, IMHO, the most
important item of note is the levelling nature of Internet and how it takes
very little monetary resources to use Internet.

Theosophy has used paper and print media for over a century to present its
message and communicate with people interested in Theosophy, it will be
very difficult for aging leadership (when did we see young leaders last?)
who grew up in the print media which had and has 100% control and who are
not exposed to computer culture, to get a full understanding of the power
and scope and future potential of Internet as the universal tool of

Internet technology is moving very fast and it is opening up channels of
direct communication without intermediaries filtering or censoring
information. By relying on print media one misses the opportunity of using
a very cost effective Internet as well as the speed with which
communication takes place. Traditionally pencil and paper methods of
communication coupled with the Postal Service provided the slack which is
useful and convenient to slow down the process and also seen from the
chains and manvantaras point of view, such slow speed does not matter.

However from a practical standpoint of today's world, speed and efficiency
can go hand in hand by using Internet.

We will have to see if theosophy and Theosophical organizations can tap
into the potential of Internet to spread the msg that HPB gave us at a
great personal sacrifice for helping the Humanity. Future can only tell if
theosophy makes use of Internet or going to miss the grand opportunity.

Just my thoughts. Welcome any feedback.


PS: A great beginning has been made by the establishment of these maillists
and the newsgroup by individuals who had the foresight to see the potential
and had the best interests of Theosophy in their hearts. My salute to John
and Eldon and Chuck. Of course there are many who have set up urls with
theosophical info and we should thank each of them for their contribution
to spread theosophy. In the Internet age, may be the future of theosophy
lies with enterprising and creative individuals rather than organizations
with a large bureaucracy and a lot of money, who knows.


Pandora's Web?

Clinton-Lewinsky allegations fuel debate about journalism and the Internet



**World Exclusive**
**Must Credit the DRUDGE REPORT**

At the last minute, at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, NEWSWEEK magazine killed
a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation:
A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the
United States!

These words, posted early Sunday morning, Jan. 18, on the personal Web site
of a man named Matt Drudge, began the lurid multimedia frenzy engulfing the
United States today. [I]

Welcome to journalism in the Internet Age:  an age when a 30- year-old
former CBS gift-shop clerk like Drudge, armed with a computer and a modem,
can wield nearly as much power as a network executive producer or the
editor of The New York Times.

The Drudge Report, a mix of gossip, politics, rumor and news, has been
attracting attention in cyberspace for a couple of years now. Some 60,000
subscribers receive Drudge's daily bulletins and "flash" reports; tens of
thousands more read them on his Web site.  Using a network of tipsters and
"borrowed" passwords to the internal computer systems of media powerhouses,
Drudge has managed to scoop the media establishment on a number of stories,
including the selection of Jack Kemp as Bob Dole's vice presidential
running mate and Connie Chung's dismissal by CBS.

But it was Drudge's White House sex scandal scoop that caused the
mainstream media to take notice.  And even as these "respectable" news
outlets pursue the scandal with almost tabloid intensity, many professional
journalists are expressing concern about Drudge's role in breaking the
Lewinsky story and the effect the Internet is having on their profession.

"The technology of nonstop news and the Internet means that allegations
that would have been carefully checked out a generation ago no longer are,"
said James Fallows, editor of U.S. News and World Report. "We now have a
24-hour-a-day news cycle. News gets used up very quickly and  there's a
constant hunger for new tidbits."

Even some online journalists fear their new medium is upping the ante.
"Every part of the media now feels the pressure of the Internet, " said
Jodie Allen, Washington editor of Slate online magazine.  "If Matt Drudge
is going to get it up there, maybe we better put (it) out there first."

Lower standards?

The problem, as some see it, is that The Drudge Report and other gadfly
Internet sites are not subject to the editorial and legal rigors to which
professional journalism is traditionally subject. Anyone with a Web site
can publish a report, however baseless or unconfirmed, and call it news.
Drudge himself has said he "takes some chances" and admits his stories are
only about "80 percent accurate."

As pundit Michael Kinsley stated flatly in TIME magazine: "The Internet
beat TV and print to this story, and ultimately  forced it on them, for one
simple reason: lower standards."

Newsweek's editors agree.  Their higher standards, they claim, are
precisely what prevented them from publishing the story in the first place.
 They wanted more information, more confirmation, and so they lost the
scoop.  Drudge's report spurred other journalists to pursue the story, and
two days later it was on the front page of The Washington Post.

"It hurt like hell," said Richard M. Smith, editor-in-chief of Newsweek.
"But given the magnitude of the allegations and the information we had at
the time, I'm convinced we acted responsibly."

That sort of responsibility is exactly what some journalists fear will be
subverted by competition from the Internet.

"We are so caught up in trying to beat one another with some little
scooplet," said the Chicago Tribune's James Warren, "that we're not taking
the care and attention that we usually do."

Power to the people?

So is the Web to blame for declining standards in mainstream journalism? Is
this new medium a high-tech Pandora's box, unleashing the ills of gossip
and rumor among an utterly scrupulous news media?

Certainly gossip and rumor didn't begin with the Internet. Walter Winchell,
to whom Drudge has with some accuracy been compared, used
less-than-pristine standards of reporting to become the most powerful
journalist--and arguably one of the most powerful people--in mid-century

Drudge likes the idea of turning this kind of power over to the masses.

"You don't get a license to report in America," he said. "We have a First
Amendment freedom.  In the future, there will be 300 million reporters with
Web sites and e-mail accounts. I'm looking forward to it. I think the
monopolization of news really screwed up a lot of things."

Kinsley, who has worked for both print and cyber news mediums, suggests the
Internet offers a new kind of communication, which, while falling short of
journalism, still has value.

"The case for Drudge," he writes in TIME, "is that there ought to be a
middle ground between the highest standards and none at all. And the
Internet, which can be sort of halfway between a private conversation and
formal publication, is a good place for that middle ground. The middle
ground, of course, should be acknowledged as such ... People should
understand that the information they get this way is middling
quality--better than what their neighbor heard at the dry cleaner's but not
as good as The New York Times."

Where there's smoke, there's lawyers

As it happens, the concerns of professional journalists may be resolved the
traditional American way: in the courtroom.   Drudge currently faces a $30
million defamation lawsuit for posting a report he later acknowledged was
untrue.  His subsequent retraction and apology failed to keep the legal
wolves at bay.

But there's a chance even lawyers can't stop Drudge and his new media ilk.
Electronic Frontier Foundation counsel Mike Godwin argues that the Internet
is exempt from slander and libel suits because it affords equal access to
everyone.  "People can say bad things on the 'Net and circulate them to a
million of their closest friends," he says. "So what?  The 'Net's a level
playing field."

Drudge agrees.  "All my readers come to me," he said.  "I'm not forcing
anyone to read me."

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