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The New Economy

OK, I burned my press pass

By / March 27, 2009

The 'before' shot of my press card. (Click on the right arrow below for the 'after' shot.)

Laurent Belsie

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One of the big changes in the new economy is the reinvention of newspapers.

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On Friday, it hit this newsroom head on. It was the last day of The Christian Science Monitor as a daily publication. We're beefing up our online presence and starting a weekly magazine. Farewell, daily print.

So to mark the occasion, I burned my press pass.

What's the story?

Why burn a press pass?

Because in the new world of journalism, anyone can gather facts and publish them. That means my journalism colleagues and I are no longer gatekeepers, we're just professionals vying with a lot of other people who (I hope) want to get the facts straight and their analysis right.

Something else is afoot here in the journalism world beyond the end of 100 years of daily print at the Monitor. It hit home for me this week when my colleague Jimmy Orr looked into blogosphere speculation that President Obama, in writing to Jacques Chirac, mistakenly thought he was the current French president rather than the former one.

Eight minutes of research into French press accounts revealed that that interpretation was all wrong. The president was responding to Chirac, nothing more. Nevertheless, Jimmy’s blog debunking that nonstory got 13 times the online traffic that our piece on the Asian trade slump got, even though it came out on the same day.

No one could argue what was the more important story. The postwar prosperity of Asia – by far, the most populous part of the world – has been hugely dependent on exports. If trade is slumping there, think of the implications. No comparison with the Obama non-gaffe.

In the old journalism world, stories were carefully researched before being published. In the blogosphere, anything goes. Anyone can start a news conversation.

What gets published may be true. Or half true. Or bogus.

But here's the important difference: On the Internet, half-truths and falsehoods can be rapidly corrected. Alert surfers, citizen journalists, and truth squad sites like Snopes.com are out there watching what is said. The Internet is a rumor mill. But it is democratic and self-correcting.

The press and public have always interacted and influenced each other, but the scale of power now seems to be tipping toward the public.

That's why I burned my press creds. I want to be a part of that new dynamic.

A charred symbol

Sure, burning a press pass is only symbolic. I still have the backing of my news organization and its name recognition, which gives me big advantages in getting access to key sources. If I need it, I can always get another press pass. But maybe the next press pass should be conferred more democratically.

Forgive me for falling back on my French ancestry, but "Nous sommes tous journalistes, maintenant."

Next time you want to know what's happening in the world economy, drop by our website. Check out the content and comment below with a yea or nay on whether we deserve that press pass. Or Twitter us with an @reply.

We'll tally up the votes and report back. Or you can.

We're all in this together now. We're all journalists.

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