“I want it to be 25 years ago!” Newsweek’s blown cover story on bitcoin.
“How was some guy in a basement who happens to have an obsessive interest in your subject going to bust into your peer group and start shooting up your journalism in a way that raises doubts about you and your magazine? Never going to happen… in 1989.”
Students of cultural lag in American professional life should find their way to Felix Salmon’s latest post on the Newsweek cover story that went awry. There they will find — these students of cultural lag — a wonderful example of accomplished journalists living in a vanished world that they insist is quite present.
The Newsweek story, by Leah McGrath Goodman, tried to solve one of the mysteries surrounding bitcoin, the digital currency that some geeks follow with a passion. (Why such interest in bitcoin? Chris Dixon explains his.) Newsweek claimed to have located the founder of bitcoin living a modest life in California. “The reclusive inventor of the troubled virtual currency has been hiding in plain sight,” the teaser said. But many people online thought the case implausible. Then the guy Newsweek discovered, Dorian Nakamoto, told the AP he was not the inventor of bitcoin. Since then it’s been a brutal time for Newsweek and Goodman, as the best and the worst of online forensics are practiced upon them.
Nice takedown of just how out of touch Newsweek is. Demonstrating that Newsweek has nothing at all to offer to those who wish to live in the current world.
Twenty-five years ago, there was no way for anyone who really knew more about this story to get a soap box to stand on. The authoritarians such as Newsweek controlled the access. The best they would do might be a letter to the editor.
Now, there are actually active communities that are not only obsessed with a topic like bitcoin but actually have quite a vigorous discussion on the exact topic Newsweek focussed on.
Newsweek, asserting it authority, simply ignored them in its write up, coming up with a model that has many holes in it. And the online community did much more than simply write letters to the editor.
They tore Newsweek apart. Instead of Newsweek’s story standing on their authority, it has now been damaged to the point of ridicule.
The journalists who live in the 21st Century know this and are actually creating new journalistic endeavors to support this approach. Places like Vox, the Verge, Pando Daily are examples of just a few journalistic models being examined.
They all knew exactly what Newsweek did wrong here. as does anyone who lives in the current century and not 1989.
Too many authoritarians seem to yearn for the good old days of the 80s when being a top-down, my way or the highway, Cold War binary decision-making were the exemplars.
Now, we live in a world awash with data, filtered by the crowds into information that helps produce knowledge, in a decentralized fashion that route arounds the processes of the authoritarians.
And generally doing a better job dealing with the complexities of the real world than authoritarians.
No wonder they want to live in a different time.