Storming the gatekeepers: Internet users defying journalists’ use of only the most officially credentialed as experts 7/22/07Posted by Steve Boriss in Experts.
Think for a moment of the experts that journalists are most likely to quote — politicians, agency heads, authors, think tank researchers, academics. Typically, they are the most credentialed individuals in the most credentialed institutions for that topic. Since most journalists lack expertise in the topics they cover, they have been relying on credentials to choose experts rather than their own judgment.
Now compare this to how author David Weinberger says web users are choosing experts, as quoted in the Wall Street Journal: “The criteria governing our choice of whom to listen to are expanding from ‘Those are the only channels I get’ and ‘I read it in a book’ to ‘I’ve heard this person respond intelligently when challenged,’ ‘People I respect recommend her,’ and even ‘A mob finds this person amusing.’” In other words, the web is allowing us to choose our own experts based on some very valid criteria beyond official credentials, including our personal experience, depth of knowledge, referrals from friends, ability to engage an audience, and popularity.
In the past, journalists’ gatekeeper function has been justified based on their allegedly superior abilities to find the truth. But, the real truth is that the most officially credentialed are not always the best sources of real truth. (Hat tip: Kristine Lowe)