February 22nd, 2008 | Published in Reporting commentary
In an absolutely true to form old media screw up CNN fired an up and coming news producer, Chez Panienza, because they discovered him blogging. He asked the HR flack who canned him here, exactly what he did wrong.
Right before I hung up, I asked for the “official grounds” for my dismissal, figuring the information might be important later. At first they repeated the line about not writing anything outside of CNN without permission, but HR then made a surprising comment: “It’s also, you know, the nature of what you’ve been writing.”
His real sin – he infringed on CNN’s monopoly on the narrative. Bottom line – they no longer own it. They can fire him but they can’t shut him up. He gets it purrfectly. They don’t get it at all.
The network never considered for a minute that new media might behave differently than television — that the regular rules might not apply.
And that’s the problem.
As far as CNN (and to be fair, the mainstream TV press in general) believes, it still sits comfortably at the top of the food chain, unthreatened by any possibility of a major paradigm shift being brought to bear by a horde of little people with laptops and opinions.
As I never tire of saying, McLuhan predicts that when the media environment changes the paradigm shifts and the rules change. He also predicts that those locked into the old paradigm remain spectacularly unconscious of how the world created by the new technology works. It is doubly spectacular that during the First Gulf War, CNN and Peter Arnett did to CBS news exactly what Chez and the Net are now doing to CNN – and to be fair, the entire established media.
Eric S Raymond, the philosopher of the open source movement, tells us that when everyone has access to the source code bugs get found, and fixed fast, while proprietary software companies deny there is a bug for six months – or sometimes forever. By extension when everyone has access to the narrative, those who controlled it find themselves exposed, confused, and making lots of mistakes. No one knows how it will all end, but things are going to change er..spectacularly.