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Responsibility amid information overindulgence

Frank Sesno

By Frank Sesno
CNN Washington Bureau Chief

December 13, 1999
Web posted at: 10:33 a.m. EST (1533 GMT)

This news analysis was written for CNN Interactive.

musings at the millennium

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Boom! Bang! Click! "And now the news... "

Shots fired round the world every minute, every day. I'm talking about the news revolution here: how you get and process information about your community, your economy, your political leaders, your world. Information is more available -- and more democratic -- than at any time in history.

As we head into the future, the implications for you, the news consumer, and for us, the news providers, are enormous.

What will be our role as journalists, as our readers, viewers and listeners become reporters and editors themselves? As they go directly to the source instead of relying on traditional news organizations?

There is plenty of journalistic angst within the news business about the changes. Will the public be able to discern the difference between "real news" and "'net nattering"? Will we lose our way editorially as all these sources of news, new and old, compete so mercilessly for attention and dollars?

It often feels as if we are moving too fast, trying to digest and report too much. Journalists are victims of the information avalanche along with everyone else.

But there is an ultimately optimistic view that I share: Divergent voices offer an opportunity to smarten up, rather than dumb down.

more musings

Visit the Web sites of major news organizations, candidates and think tanks and you'll see the potential. Online journalism will continue to add to the national discussion. It may even make "traditional" media do more and better.

But there is an important proviso. For you, the news consumer, a new responsibility goes along with this journalistic uprising. More than ever, you will have to sort out where the good information is, to distinguish between fact and fiction, substance and silliness. You become your own editor-in-chief.

Welcome to the 21st century. Thomas Paine, revolutionary champion of freedom of the press in the 18th century, would have welcomed the challenge.

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