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Two and a half years ago, Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne penned an editorial for The Wall Street Journal, warning that widespread stock manipulation schemes - including abusive naked short selling - were threatening the health of America's financial markets. But it wasn't published.
Then, on September 17, the SEC issued a new order meant to curb naked shorting of all stocks. "These several actions today make it crystal clear that the SEC has zero tolerance for abusive naked short selling," read a statement from SEC chairman Christopher Cox. "The Enforcement Division, the Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations, and the Division of Trading and Markets will now have these weapons in their arsenal in their continuing battle to stop unlawful manipulation."
In the wake of the SEC's crackdown, the mainstream financial press has acknowledged that widespread and deliberate naked shorting can artificially deflate stock prices, flooding the market with what amounts to counterfeit shares. But for years, The Journal and so many other news outlets ignored Byrne's warnings, with some journalists - most notably a Forbes.com columnist and former BusinessWeek reporter named Gary Weiss - painting the Overstock CEO as a raving madman.
Byrne has long argued that the press dismissed his views at least in part because Weiss - hiding behind various anonymous accounts - spent years controlling the relevant articles on Wikipedia, the "free online encyclopedia anyone can edit."
"At some level, you can control the public discourse from Wikipedia," Byrne says. "No matter what journalists say about the reliability of Wikipedia, they still use it as a resource. I have no doubt that journalists who I discussed [naked shorting] with decided not to do stories after reading Wikipedia - whose treatment [of naked short selling] was completely divorced from reality."
Is journalism dead?
As black and white print delivered to your front door Sunday through Saturday? Probably. Other forms, not so much.
It will be a long time coming before I read a book on my laptop, though. No matter how portable you make it. As of yet, there is no workable substitution for my highlighter and pen notes crammed into margins. A 1k word article, is a different story. I can park in front of any screen and scroll through short reads endlessly. I think we have become pampered...we live in an age where "news" and "journalism" are a few hundred words acting as a synopsis of events. IMHO, we have confused journalism and analysis...
For example: This bank bailout. Is it really "journalism" to condense hundreds of pages of a bill into an article which fits "above the fold" (web or paper)? IMHO, true investigative journalism should produce documents equal or greater in scope than the piece being examined...else what is the point?
Maybe the problem isn't with the medium(s) or journalists. Maybe it is a society filled with individuals who expect soundbites and RSS feeds with up to the minute "articles" which can be viewed on a single Blackberry screen because we forgot our Adderol and can't fathom reading more than what is necessary to make a quick comment at the water cooler. Maybe it is a culture which expects information now! not in 10 minutes when fact checking has been completed; when someone has returned to a desk and verified sources instead of posting from their laptop on the trip to the office. Maybe it is the tendency to reward those who produce articles first and not those who produce the best (i.e. "breaking news" versus journalism).
Let me ask about the chicken and the egg...
Did media do this to us? Or did we demand it and the media simply responded to our demands?
I think people have gravitated to the 'news' or the 'facts' they liked for a long time.
That's certainly been true in Europe, where there are plenty of national newspapers with overt political leanings. It's been less true in the U.S., primarily for marketing reasons: U.S. papers tend to be local or metropolitan, so they need to be palatable to readers across the political spectrum if they want to retain circulation and attract advertisers.
The problem is agenda. If I edit a Wikipedia article, it's because I want a link, which means my stuff is a lot more accurate than anyone trying to push a particular point of view, but maybe not as considered as someone who is doing it for the good of mankind.
The agenda problem infected mainstream media (which I've been a part of for 15 years) when deregulation set in and big corporations bought up all the outlets and learned that people have short attention spans and like stories about Paris Hilton. In an effort to appear unbiased, which is actually just being lazy, they present what is given to them by their sources (like the White House) without doing original research. The best political interviews are now done on The View, where they actually asked John McCain why he was lying about Obama in campaign ads. Why can Joy Behar get away with it but not Katie Couric? Because we know her agenda - she likes Obama.
I dont see wikipedia taking over the role of "truth respository" inspite of what happens to other media on or offline ..mainly because it is not in the interest of google and any others search engine to be "bypassed" by those looking for facts to go directly to anywhere on the net ..and yes we can all type the URL directly in the bar and never see google et al ..
But away from tech fora such as this ..most people type directly into the "search" box ..and they dont know that there is another way ..
BTW I expect that the development of "chrome" with search straight from the address bar was done with the intention to restrict choice of destination URL rather than to widen it ..personalised search is the same thing ..you'll be fed whats good for you based upon what you seem to like ..
Google and search is the new oracle at delphi ..with ads on ..it decides for you what is true ..what is relevant ..what you will see ..and what you will be allowed to be fed as "fact" ..
what doesnt conform or sites or pages that have "unwanted" information can be dropped from the index ..
Tinkering with wikipedia is irrelevant in the face of search which can shut off billions from what their leaders consider unwanted results ..or landing pages for search term "looser" ..search is the real power ..whatever the stock may be at today ..
[edited by: Leosghost at 9:49 am (utc) on Oct. 8, 2008]
[edited by: bakedjake at 2:20 pm (utc) on Oct. 8, 2008]
[edit reason] TOS [/edit]
I have given up on Wikipedia also, but it is because the U in UGC is often not present. What is there instead is a C, for "corporate." I have run into this with several articles where I contributed parts that had reasoned information backed up with citations from articles in peer-reviewed journals, but the info was repeatedly deleted, and immediately, and replaced with spin created by contributors who were industry shills.
As for journalists, I will never forget meeting a journalism student getting ready to graduate from an excellent journalism school who asked me, "Just what is literature anyway?"