Humbling the Mighty: How the Internet’s Media Abundance Killed the News Embargo

by on September 26, 2009 · 9 comments

Deposuit potentes de sede, et exaltavit humiles;
[The Lord] hath put down the mighty from their seats [of power] and raised up the lowly.
- “Magnificat

The Internet continues to humble the mighty in journalism. We hear a lot about the humbling of news outlets like the New York Times, but little about the humbling of news-makers. While the media reformistas would have us believe that dark, shadowy forces control what we hear, see and read, the reality is that it’s becoming increasingly impossible for even the world’s largest companies to “manage” stories because we live in an age of true media abundance. There’s no better sign of this than the fact that Michael Arrington has declared, with good reason, the “news embargo” dead. In the days of media scarcity (which the reformistas like Andrew Keen want to re-create), press releases often declared a story to be “embargoed” until a specific day and time, allowing companies to shape the story by planting releases with the “right” journalists ahead of time. Such embargoes have been breaking down for some time, but now, with the explosion of media abundance, even Google no longer has “the clout to force press to stick to embargoes.”

It’s not my favorite recording but this clip of Bach’s “Magnificat” (BWV 243) should sear into your brain the irrepressibility of the Internet as the greatest leveling force since the invention of the printing press. The two are not unrelated: Bach’s Lutheranism was made possible only by the ready availability of the printed word.

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