This is one of those instances where I will reserve comment and encourage you watch for yourself. I’ll only say that I think this is perhaps the most thought provoking (and at some points frightening) programming on Sunday morning network television in quite some time.
Watch the full episode from April 24th by clicking on the image.
Some once-serious news outlets give pride of place not to stories they think important but to stories that are “trending” on Twitter — the “American Idol”-ization of news. And we have bestowed our highest honor — market valuation — not on those who labor over the making of original journalism but on aggregation.
“Aggregation” can mean smart people sharing their reading lists, plugging one another into the bounty of the information universe. It kind of describes what I do as an editor. But too often it amounts to taking words written by other people, packaging them on your own Web site and harvesting revenue that might otherwise be directed to the originators of the material. In Somalia this would be called piracy. In the mediasphere, it is a respected business model.
The queen of aggregation is, of course, Arianna Huffington, who has discovered that if you take celebrity gossip, adorable kitten videos, posts from unpaid bloggers and news reports from other publications, array them on your Web site and add a left-wing soundtrack, millions of people will come.
Last month, when AOL bought The Huffington Post for $315 million, it was portrayed as a sign that AOL is moving into the business of creating stuff — what we used to call writing or reporting or journalism but we now call “content.” Buying an aggregator and calling it a content play is a little like a company’s announcing plans to improve its cash position by hiring a counterfeiter.