Friday, February 03, 2006

Strange attractors

Mickey Kaus has a point. It's a minor and somewhat maddening point, to be sure: How is it that one WPost employee (Tony Kornheiser) taking money from the Redskins is a conflict, when another (Howard Kurtz) taking money from CNN is not?

I have no idea. But the question does illustrate the fractal-like nature of the media business these days. Web and cable are proliferating. People are selling themselves across different platforms, spreading their memes where they may. You get conflicts nestling within conflicts.

With the media's credibility under siege, every conflict of interest, every small taint of bias must be exposed and expunged, from within or without. The media police -- bloggers, ombudsmen, and journalists like Kurtz -- are expanding their reach and power. The ombudsmen are themselves being ombudded. Nobody's above it all anymore. That's great, even if it's making some media outlets skittish and bureaucratic. What's bad is that few media types, including the mainstream critics like Kurtz with pretenses to traditional objectivity, have figured out how to maneuver through this quicksilver landscape. If they're top of the world one minute, they may be felled by a viral meme the next.