If print’s in decline (and it is), then what’s next for Whitewater (or other small towns)?
I’ve contended that a new Whitewater is inevitable. We’ve passed the beginning of that process, and are now in a middle time toward a new city.
There are years yet ahead, but most now living in Whitewater will one day see a significantly different political and social climate.
A few easy observations:
1. The move from print to digital is a move toward the possibility of faster interaction between publisher and readers, and less expensive entry costs for new publishers. It’s less expensive, in fact, by more than one order of magnitude.
2. It’s worth highlighting yet again: these electronic trends empower individuals to become publishers. It’s a return, in a way, to America’s early (vigorous, and influential) tradition of pamphleteering.
3. Nothing about the Web, social media, email, texting, etc., was invented in Whitewater. These are global developments, of which America has had a significant, outsized role. The businesses behind these developments are often worth billions singly, and amount to trillions in wealth collectively.
4. America’s tradition of liberty, with a free and productive economy, is a fertile ground for the growth of these electronic media.
5. Like most places, Whitewater has had both public, institutional, and small-publisher websites for years.
6. Whitewater’s political culture has been, until recently, stodgy, top-down, narrow, and driven by personality. (One can guess that glad-handing has no appeal to me, especially when it has produced work so far beneath the standards that capable Americans can and do meet every day. Most Americans are sharp and capable this way; many, but not all, town notables have often lagged the standards of our dynamic country.)
There’s no circumstance under which I would prefer print over electronic publishing, or an insider’s role over independent commentary. See, along these lines, Measuring the Strength of a Position.
7. I predicted in 2012 that Whitewater would grow to have not a few but many electronic publications, of diverse types of media, and that resulting growth would be a positive development. (“I like it, and hope for more and still more. Each and every thoughtful person in this city will benefit from an expanding marketplace of ideas.”)
8. I made this prediction three years ago, and it’s slowly proving correct. Not only have thousands of residents been skilled in using social media for many years (long before 2012, of course), but their clubs and organizations are beginning to build new webpages or Facebook pages to advance their views without reliance on third parties.
There are easily dozens of such organizational or business sites now, and each one affords its publisher the chance to craft his or her own message by content and style.
9. There’s a role for something like a Banner in Whitewater as a convenience to others, and may always be, but it’s an obvious move for organizations to create their own pages, of their own composition and design, to advance their views and messages as they would like, without reliance on a third-party publisher.
The number of talented people in Whitewater is vast; there’s no one in the city who is demonstrably best at online publishing. Even in a city of about fifteen thousand, one could not count (let alone arrange in order) all the capable people of this kind.
I would always prefer an environment where FREE WHITEWATER was one of many different sites, of all sorts of views.
10. As groups craft their own pages (especially on Facebook, which is well-used and offers an easy-to-use publishing method), their views will begin to diverge from a common, unified, party-line message.
Some will start by echoing the same, standard message of others, but they’ll not end there. (Several pages will begin with a common message, then with similar messages, then with different messages revealing the differences in ideology and outlook between publishers.)
One knows this because while Whitewater’s town fathers would prefer a single message, nature offers diverse messengers. When dozens of groups have dozens of Facebook pages, those pages will begin to publish the unique viewpoints of (naturally) separate and distinct individuals.
It’s false, and odd to the point of nuttiness, to think that a free and educated people would rely on a few print publishers, or a few online publishers, as against their own prodigious talents.
Some pages will spring to life unexpectedly, in surprising times and places, as part of a broader, spontaneous order (thank you, among others, Prof. Hayek).
11. The idea of ‘one city, one leadership, one message’ is fated to failure. It’s not fated to failure because of anything that began inside the city, but because of the irresistible trends in media developing all across this continent, when applied to (naturally) different kinds of people.
Those forces, and that human nature, will not be denied. Whitewater will develop into a city of shifting pluralities, with no one (individual or group) assured of control over a majority. That will be to the good.
Whitewater’s coming to the end of a top-down way of doing things, although there are years to go before that prior and inferior method shrivels to its demise.
I write this because I am confident that it’s true, but with considerable optimism for the outcome, too: Whitewater will be a far better city when she at last sheds this absurd and wrong desire of a few to dominate so many more.
Diverse media are better media.