Wherein I Pat Myself Vigorously on the Back.

AOL has apparently recognized once and for all that its news division, if anyone ever called it that, hasn't really caught on. As such, it has acquired the Huffington Post.

While I'm going to be necessarily skeptical of any corporatization of a once-independent news outlet, I'm glad that the Huffington Post is going to have access to new resources, and by integrating AOL's content with the Huffington Post, it's going to fill major gaps in coverage. If this winds up making it possible to expand the Huffington Post Investigative Fund, I'm all for it.  Arianna has said that this will do nothing to change editorial standards at HuffPo (though I would hope that the editorial standards of the media universe that she now helms will increase across the board). For now, I believe her, but I hope we all keep watch. If all is as advertised, this will be a game changer of epic proportions.

Reading Howard Fineman's column on the matter reminded me of something from five years ago.

 Here's what Howard had to say:

My best teacher at Columbia was a man with a sly grin, a razor wit and a gift for Delphic utterances. He told us that journalism had one mission and one method: "to go there."
I thought of that epigram - simple, but profound - when I learned what The Huffington Post and AOL were about to do. Now, with more depth and breadth than ever, we will be able to "go there," connecting people to information, ideas, events - and to each other.
The possibilities are exciting, the responsibilities challenging.
In one sense, however, everything has changed. These days, my teacher's mission statement applies not just to journalists, but also to us all. EVERYONE is a journalist, or can be. Technology gives us all the ability - digitally - to "go there": to Tahrir Square, to the talk of Cairo streets, to diplomatic cables, to live feeds.
If the 21st century is about "self-determination" - and I think it is - then we all need to be actively informed and engaged. Journalism has become an interactive, communal exercise in self-education.
In that sense, the entire Huffington Post/AOL community is and will be a continuous, individualized and yet planetary exercise in "going there."
And that now is often less about geography in the physical world than navigation - a sea-faring term adapted for our time - in the digital one. "Going there" now means to the virtual world, too.
When I succeed in doing anything worthwhile, it invariably was when I picked up the phone to make one last call, or read another document, or went to the Hill or the White House instead of calling, or got on a plane to get outside the Beltway, or drove across Des Moines or Little Rock or Austin for one more interview.
Today it's one more web site or tweet or video clip or email. But I'm still going there. You're welcome to come with me.
Take a look at the bolded part. Now, take a look at this post of mine, from 2005, in response to a since-overturned ruling by a California judge that protections guaranteed to journalists don't apply to bloggers.

A few years ago I stumbled upon a shiny, sexy device. [It was]of slightly lesser dimensions that a sheet of letter-sized paper, and about an inch thick. it opened like a book to reveal two LCD screens, one on either side.

The applications of such a device are obvious. However, what was missing at the time was a means of delivering the data. Today, we have WiFi.

So we have the display device, and the delivery system. All that remains is the implementation, and that is fast approaching. Seatle is in the process of being completely WiFi-ed, and other cities will follow. Wifi is the thing that will render actual, physical newspapers, books, and magazines to be permanently obselete.

Imagine you're having luch with a freind at a restaurant, and he mentions a book he's reading in casual conversation. You get the idea that this is the sort of book that you might like to read, so ... pull out your E-Book reader and ask your friend to repeat the title of the book. You're charged a nominal fee, significantly less than that of an actual paperback or hardcover becuase the publisher no longer needs to pay the fabulous price of printing and distribution.

So now you're reading this book. Depending on how well the writer or publisher is making use of the technology, you may be able to say, tap your finger on a word you don't understand, and have the definition pop up, not just the dictionary definition, but what the word means in context. Also, if it makes reference to a book that you think you might like, all you need to do is go to the bibliography, and follow a link to it. It will do to books what DVD technology did to film.

in terms of online news and magazines, the improvements are dramatic. You now have access to news the very moment it's submitted. Perhaps you even programmed your reader to alert you to new developments in a news story, or breaking news. Maybe you find yourself on the scene. You can use this same device to blog what you see... Maybe you were the first to submit about it.
And, to come full circle back to my original point, [this development would] blur the line between blogging and journalism to the point at which defining either as being separate from the other simply won't be worth the bother.
Holy shit, right? I posted that entry on March 3rd, 2005.  I was about to turn 19. Huffington Post had been around for less than a month.  Facebook had been around for a year, and had yet to expand beyond colleges. Twitter wouldn't be around for another year.  The tablet craze was four years away. AOL was attempting to create a social network that extended beyond its instant messaging service and failing hardcore, but part of the attempt was AOL news, which will now fall under Huffington's purview.

There's a reason why I shat on the iPad when it came out. I already knew that what it represented was inevitable, and didn't want Apple to get it's filthy hands on my future. I agree with Howard. The 21st Century is about self-determination. As such, we need to support open systems and let everything else fall under its own weight. This new development is crucial: There is now a worldwide news organization with a scope just as broad as any in print or television whose sole method of distribution is the Internet.  It is now an organization worthy of being seen as a peer with CNN, the New York Times, or Newsweek (whose recent acquisition by The Daily Beast is now dwarfed by this news). The new Huffpost Media will be the first entity of its kind to be wholly born of the Internet Age, and speaking as a futurist, that's a welcome sign.

The only part of my vision that hasn't caught on is universal WiFi, which was going to be a part of the Obama administration's National Broadband Plan, but got scrapped in part because the coverage would have only been equivalent to that of a DSL line, and it was decided that there were better ways to expand access. My response would have been to kick it up a notch, but the expense is likely prohibitive.  As such, we're going to need to do this from the ground up, municipality by municipality, until the model has proven itself workable enough to expand to a national model. The upcoming merger between NBC and Comcast makes such effort all the more important. It's achievable, and if done correctly, it'll put people to work.

But for today, I wonder if any of my other predictions are going to turn out right.  Stay tuned folks.  Keith Olbermann is announcing a new venture tomorrow.

I'm going to be announcing a new project too, though when exactly I can't say for certain, other than "soon."

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