With the proliferation of news sources, brands, and certifications, consumers of information used to have too few choices, now they have too many. The internet age has brought on a glut of information. How do we discriminate the quality of one source or another? A good brand does not suffice any more. A slick website will not do.
I, like many, have a Twitter feed. Now, a column on this site. Scroll down these information feeds and you will see a reflection of my passions and interests. My record. Over time, some Twitter users attract thousands of followers, perhaps possessing no fame or fortune or prior reputation, just thoughts in 140 characters. Our phones tell towers where we are now. Our families are families on Facebook, now. That dumb thing I did on Wednesday is on Youtube now. Our people and institutions leave more and more permanent records.
The record becomes the value of the brand. It can't be a fancy slogan anymore. It has to be a steady slog of facts. The direction things are trending with information, wikis, leaks, and a growing digital record, we have to confront the idea that our everyday lives will slowly become communal knowledge, for better and for worse. In this emergent state, the institution that builds their record secures a lasting value.
If I sold to you fruit, and that fruit is inspected Federally and rated Organic, that is one kind of record. If I owned a laboratory, and tested my fruit everyday for toxins and nutrients, and could certify my food was highly nutritious over 10 years, that is a more valuable brand. Securing a #1 slot in nutrition is not only a potentially lucrative position to be in, but developing this potential as a nation is in everybody's best interest. We want our children eating the most nutritious food on Earth; we want to be feeding the best food on Earth to our soldiers in our bases, and to our students in our schools.
Likewise, the great news sources display a commitment to fact-checking, sourcing, and corrections. They restrain themselves from inflammatory, alarmist, and misleading rhetoric. They research and report interesting and important news, often at great expense. Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros epitomized journalism, and though the newsroom is a little draftier now, without greats like them in it, it also explains why folks like me are typing away in a column that's never read. Their record.