Well, as least it is dead for me. Last night it was running a
special report on the major power outage of eastern United States
and Canada. Minutes into the program I became impatient as they were
repeating the information. So I turned the TV off and went back to
the web for more in-depth report.
So far TV is considered by people the first source to get
breaking news. I never watch much TV and have not owned a set for
some years. People believe you need TV to get most up-to-date
information. Nevertheless I consider myself well informed in public
affairs without it.
The breakthrough comes when news media begin to publish on the
web, first as an online version of the printed materials, and later
serve as real time update on breaking news. This gives printed media
the same instantaneousness as other electronic media.
One may argue a picture worth a thousand words. On the scene
report let you see things as it happens. I counter that. Seeing
things through the camera can only provide one, possibly narrow,
perspective. It is not the same as understanding the event. Video is
also most susceptible to the sensational, infotainment style
reporting. Watching the TV repeatedly replaying the collapse of
World Trade Center in the 9/11 terrorist attack provides audience
quite little information other than leaving a traumatizing effect.
Words can express details and concepts beyond the scene of action
that is necessary for true understanding. And when words are not
enough it can often supplemented with pictures, illustration and
even video clips.
The real power of the web is that users can play an active role
as oppose to being a passive recipient. The web provides an immense
depth of information and different point of view. One can enrich the
understanding by following related-links of the story. Some articles
provide reader's feedback, which give extra information or even
contrarian's view. One can do their own research on related topics
or to seek out alternative outlets.
So what caused the power outage? How can a single incident
brought down a power grid that is designed to be robust? There is no
definitive answer yet. Some articles points to chaos theory, where
in a complex system, a minor incident can trigger much larger effect
in the whole system. An interesting topic to pursue.