In a world without newspapers, publishing houses, film studios, radio and TV stations there’ll be nobody to discover and – no less important – to nurture talent. The result could be no less catastrophic than Pol Pot’s decision to eliminate talent and expertise in Cambodia by mass execution. “Once dismantled, I fear that this professional media – with its rich ecosystem of writers, editors, agents, talent scouts, journalists, publishers, musicians, reporters and actors – can never again be put back together. We destroy it at our peril,” says Keen.What’s at peril is the credibility of any media critic who interjects Pol Pot into a discussion about podcasts and websites - but that’s hardly the point right now. No - what’s at issue is Keen’s contention that without the loving guidance of corporate gatekeepers, all those insatiable communicators will cease to ensue the voodoo that they do. Hardly. With new distribution platforms emerging every fortnight, lensmiths, scribes and fiddlers will produce more noise that ever - some of which will actually contain a discernible signal. Will it all suck? Depends on your perspective. If you’re an esteemed member of the Fourth Estate, the rabble of the masses will no doubt fill you with dread. If you’re a twenty-something with a pierced eyelid and a laptop, you’re probably too busy surfing YouTube to care what some old fossil thinks.
As for this quickly calcifying relic, I find myself wedged between the grinding plates of the tectonic schism. With once sacred and scarce tools now down-sized and dumb-downed for the masses, any old ape can consider themselves a self-publishing primate. That evolution is already underway - as evidenced by the plummeting TV ratings scribbled on the nearest cave wall. Now we can sit by the fire all night and worry about where that leaves a camera-slinging tree-swinger like myself, but it won’t stop this survival of the fittest. That will be decided out there - where a new breed of media-maker is petrifying my kind even as we speak. Will it forever change the way we process the world? You betcha. Will it force the current species to walk the Earth - forever searching for the guidance of a benevolent master? Hell no. Content - good and bad - will flourish and they’ll be a thousand new ways to access the best and the worst of it. Podcasts will lay down with broadcasts, on-line video will couple with the Datelines of the world and a new generation of news consumers will be more, informed, overwhelmed and fractured than before. To paraphrase our new American Idol, this is our Now.
(Oh yeah, as for TV stations being ’nurturing’, come walk a mile with my tripod. We'll nurture you up a good hernia...)