Here's how the Times quotes her and reacts:
"Traditional media, of course, is hardly dead yet," [Hilden] concludes. "But with tools like these, new media may drive a few stakes in its heart."The Times ends it at that. It's just a cute squib for them -- at least in print. Maybe in person, they are quaking about the economic implications.
A reporter for The New York Times, she writes, "is just a blogger who happened to attend college; impress some bosses with his or her talent; get some training through experience - and possibly (though certainly not always) journalism school; and receive a podium for his or her pains."
Which is a little like saying a lawyer is just someone who likes to argue who happened to go to law school, pass the bar, and get a job at a law firm. There is little doubt that blogs are transforming the news media, mostly in positive ways. But what the "blogs will destroy the media business" argument misses is that there are fundamental economic reasons that it can never happen.
Let's look at the Hilden quote in context. Read the Hilden piece. I've given you the link to it. (The NYT only linked to the Findlaw website, but I tracked down the link.) Hilden has ideas about how software might be designed to identify bloggers whose reliability compares to traditional media.
Much-linked-to sites tend to be reliable. Blogs that do well on the "fantasy market" for Blog shares tend to be reliable. Sites that report local events tend to be reliable. (Bloggers have the ability to provide the most local reportage possible - doing it literally street by street; so do local news sites and the like.)So we see the NYT omitted a lot as it made its wisecracking analogy to lawyers and nonlawyers and bluntly concluded that new media replacing traditional media "can never happen." Having read Hilden's piece in full, however, I'm inclined to wonder if it could happen.
Of course, these proxies for reliableness - links, market evaluation, geographic proximity - wouldn't be perfect. Far from it. But it's worth noting that neither are traditional media. Remember, a New York Times reporter is just a blogger who happened to attend college; impress some bosses with his or her talent; get some training through experience - and possibly (though certainly not always) journalism school; and receive a podium for his or her pains.
Indeed, certain institutional features suggest bloggers (or other local reports) may actually be more reliable than traditional media when it comes to local topics.
Recall, for instance, the New York Times's problem with "touchdown bylines" - where a Mobile, Alabama byline, for example, could merely mean the reporter's plane touched down there briefly - while the reportage came from a local, uncredited freelancer unaffiliated with the Times. Might not credited reportage by a Mobile-based blog be more reliable than the Times's "Mobile" story?
Similarly, consider Newsweek's headline-making - but now-retracted - reportage on alleged desecration of the Koran. Wouldn't an anonymous blog by someone within the military -and vetted by others in the military, who could anonymously comment -- have been more likely to get the story (or lack thereof) right?
Moreover, and crucially, Google would not have to rely on proxies for reliability such as links, fantasy markets, and the like. Instead (or in addition), it could limit its sources to blogs (and other sites) willing to incorporate a system to further guarantee reliability.
How would this system work? It could ask readers to rate content for reliability - and to rate other raters as to how accurate their ratings were.
Systems for rating raters already exist - though they are not yet legion. Transparensee (for which I have worked, and from which I have stock options) has developed a dynamic system by which writers' ratings are adjusted based on readers' evaluation of their postings; top-rated writer's posts would appear first for readers. Daily Kos also uses a rating system for those providing comments.
Google could also require disclosure -- through which a content writer or producer could, in effect, make an argument for his, her, or its reliability.
For instance, one rater (or source) on economic issues might disclose that he has a Ph.D. in economics from, say, Stanford. Readers - and raters - may infer that he probably knows what he's talking about in economics (but not necessarily when it comes to, say, wine tasting).
Long-established brands like "Stanford" wouldn't be the only ones that counted: The Wired brand, the Wonkette brand, and individuals' names ("Anne Rice" is a brand when it comes to vampire knowledge) would matter too.
Video game scores could be proof of reliability regarding knowledge of video games; "top Amazon book reviewer" status could indicate knowledge of books. People could also vouch for each other's reliability, just as they often do in real life.
Finally, a writer who couldn't resort to any of these brands - a rare occurrence -- could just make an argument: "Why you should believe me." In this way, content itself could vouch for reliability: After all, expertise doesn't always come from a degree; it can come from experience or access instead.
ADDED: And, yes, you don't have to tell me: you can't trust people just because they happen to have law degrees either.