DJ Paz aka Matt Paz read my crazy old post linking Sarah Jessica Parker and the fall of Jane magazine and put some sense into it, via email:
The root of the problem is this, I think: In the “trad media” world, there was what economists call a barrier to entry – i.e. you had to have $$$ to buy a printing press and get yr mag distributed. Therefore, anything that surmounted that barrier and made it to the marketplace had an imbued legitimacy or authority – this must be good if the gatekeeper/publisher is willing to commit precious capital to it.
The web destroyed that barrier. Absent that barrier, that commitment, no information source stands out as any more legitimate than another, and WE get to/have to sort out truth from fiction, quality from not-quality, TMZ from Perez Hilton (uh…) ourselves. This is half-awesome and half-disheartening. Because it’s incredible to tap into the wealth of talent that’s out there and it’s refreshing to hear from regular people who happen to be experts at niche stuff. There is precious little New Jack Swing coverage in the mainstream media, and more than I could ever read on the internet.
But that’s the trouble too – a lot of the Johnny Kemp coverage on the internet sucks, or just repeats what someone else says. It’s inefficient for me to read through all of that crap. So I sort it out by relying on a few names I trust. There’s an argument that while elitism is ugly, we do truly need an elite. People who are QUALIFIED to judge what’s good and bad. I can’t know everything, so I need to rely on other people to be experts about things and decide what’s good, so I only have to consume what’s good and can leave the rest to rot. I need a smart Google-by-committee that returns search results based on Excellence and not just Popularity. Right?
This whole thing reminded me of a book I have on my NYPL reserve list, which I couldn’t remember the name of but found by googling “cultural elite expert death web 2.0”. It came up right away and is called (wait for it): Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur: How the democratization of the digital world is assaulting our economy, our culture, and our values. Zero points for guessing which side of the argument HE’s on.

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