Internet On the Front Lines

As a worrywart news junkie, I continue to follow the activities in Iraq and the surrounding region with rabid interest. I've got CNN on the TV, NPR streaming through my computer, and I am reading newspaper web sites from all over the world. My hunt for varying news sources has gotten obsessive. I'm like Gollum looking for his Precious.

Whether you are for or against the actions the USA is taking in Iraq (and in the world at large), now is the time to dramatically diversify your media consumption portfolio.

As much media as I consume, I must admit that what I consume used to be, even just 10 days ago, largely one-sided. But in the last week, I've read British, Irish, French, Saudi Arabian and Lithuanian newspapers online. The Saudi paper, ArabNews, is largely against the war, though tamer than I'd have guessed. The Western European press is largely "con" the actions, which isn't a surprise; the Baltic press is largely "pro."

But the other day, again, I came across something very interesting while reading The Guardian Unlimited. Some of you may already know this story, as it has since made The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other papers, but for those of you who don't:

It's a story about a blogger living in a suburb of Baghdad, basically writing about how he has experienced the build-up and now execution of the war there. The individual recounts in convincing detail both observations of air attacks and Iraqi police force activities as well as the regular goings-on of daily life in Baghdad. As of press time, he hasn't posted since Monday, March 24th.

Whether or not this guy is real (his 'nom de plume' is Salam Pax, meaning peace in both Arabic and Latin), it again demonstrates how transformative the Internet has been not only among us early-adopter nerd types or hard-driving professionals, but in relation to all aspects of life.

Among a plethora of blogs related to the war in Iraq, others are command-post.org, agonist.org, instapundit.com, blogsofwar.com, and warblogs.cc (thanks Rick Brunner for that list.).

The war, here, of course serves as the back-drop to the point I want to make, which is the amazing publishing power that the Internet lends to the average person (see Tom Hespos' Lessons Learned from Open Source) and the extraordinary diversity of perspective the Internet makes possible.

That fact should come as no surprise to most of you reading, but it is easy for us to forget that we live and work in a very rarified environment and that the way in which the Internet can disseminate information, images, and points of view are only now starting to become known to the world outside of our cloistered industry. Personalities on CNN have even made it a point more than once that a lot of the information they transmit is coming to them from over the Internet.

I watched "The Killing Fields" again the other night and was struck by the realization of how news stories used to be filed from a theater of war. A "scoop" could often take days to file.

Now, some average Jane or Joe with a machine and a phone line can file stories in moments. And they don't even have to have an organizational affiliation. Just the will to do it.

We are really only just beginning to see what the Internet as a medium is really capable of.

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