Wow! ...and, whew! I just spent the last hour on a wild ride courtesy of online-media guru Doc Searls. Yesterday he published a lengthy but compelling essay on a concept he calls "giant zero journalism." (I think his catchphrase is ripe for ridicule, but the concept is intriguing.)

Searls starts with a roundup of diverse views on how media organizations do and don't mesh with average people who create news and content. It's a lot of big excerpts, but they weave together well.

Speaking of big excerpts, the point Searls arrives at is this:

"The Net is a giant zero. It puts everybody zero distance from everybody and everything else. And it supports publishing and broadcasting at costs that round to zero as well. It is essential for the mainstream media to understand that the larger information ecosystem is one that grows wild on the Net and supports everybody who wants to inform anybody else.

"Framing is a huge issue here. ...We don't just 'deliver information' like it's a Fedex package. We inform each other. That is, we literally form what other people know. ...Enlarging each other is the deepest calling of journalism, whether it's done by bloggers, anchors or editors. ...We are all authors of each other. What we call authority is the right we give others to author us, to make us who we are.

"...'Curation' and 'curative' are words tradition-bound journalists like to use when they defend their institutions. But these are museum words. They suggest collections of artifacts behind locked doors in basement collections. The majority of papers today still lock up their archives. It's time to stop that, for the simple reason that it insults the nature of the Giant Zero environment on which they now reside. They can make as much or more money by exposing those archives to Google's and Yahoo's indexing spiders, by placing advertising on them, by linking to them and bringing interest and visitors to them, by making them useful to other journalists (many of whom will be bloggers) seeking to write authoritatively about their communities and their communities' histories."

...OK, I don't agree 100 percent with everything Searls asserts in this piece, but it did lead me to think hard. A key issue I think he ignored is credibility -- people really do want to know what information and which sources they should trust. I don't think it's realistic to expect most people to continue to place blind faith in established "news brands." But I also don't think it's realistic to expect that living in a "giant zero" information/conversation environment means that credibility no longer matters. If anything, it matters more.

Set aside at least an hour to read Searls' piece, and follow all the links. It's well worth the time.

(Full disclosure: Searls' essay praises research by J-Lab, a client of mine and Tidbits contributor Adam Glenn. It also mentions I, Reporter, my venture with Glenn.)