It’s been said that the power of the press belongs to the person who owns one. Starting with Gutenberg, technology designed to disseminate information has had the ability to change the world. Look at the effects of broadcast television: not just news but the cultural impact of entertainment and sports programming as well. The World Wide Web put this power in the hands of individuals. Millions and millions of Web sites and blogs on a wide range of issues and interests bear witness to this power.
I have frequently cited the advent of IPTV as an avenue for independent producers and individuals to make video content available to a worldwide audience. I’ll agree that most of these examples are clips that may have been cut from America’s Funniest Home Videos but there are many cases where independent clips may get broad exposure and spark discussion about serious issues. I just became aware of a video posted by Michael De Kort on YouTube where he makes whistle-blowing allegations about Lockheed Martin, the Coast Guard, and the Department of Homeland Security. As I write this, it has been viewed more than 90,000 times.
The story has been picked up by larger outlets, from the Washington Post to CNET to Slate. Google reports more than 27,000 hits on his name. But if De Kort’s account on YouTube is correct, the story got exposure only after he posted his clip, having apparently exhausted other avenues within his company and the federal government.
It now appears that Internet video can give “the little guy” an opportunity to bring grievances and raise issues on a large scale. I believe that this is a powerful and a positive factor overall. It does, however, place additional responsibilities on each of us as information consumers to be cautious about what we choose to believe. This skepticism is nothing new; we should have learned that lesson from Orson Welles’ original radio broadcast of War of the Worlds. It’s clear, however, that another technological genie has been released from its bottle; anyone with a Web cam now can share in the power of the press.