Kathleen Parker

Of all the stories leading America's annual greatest-hits list, the one that subsumes the rest is the continuing evolution of information in the Age of Blogging.

Not since the birth of the printing press have our lives been so dramatically affected by the way we create and consume information - both to our enormous benefit and, perhaps, to our growing peril.

What is wonderful and miraculous about the Internet needs little elaboration. We all marvel at the ease with which we can access information - whether reading government documents previously available only to a few, or tracking down old friends and new enemies.

It is this latter - our new enemies - that interests me most. I don't mean al-Qaida or Osama bin Laden, but the less visible, insidious enemies of decency, humanity and civility - the angry offspring of narcissism's quickie marriage to instant gratification.

There's something frankly creepy about the explosion we now call the Blogosphere - the big-bang "electroniverse" where recently wired squatters set up new camps each day. As I write, the number of "blogs" (Web logs) and "bloggers"(those who blog) is estimated in the tens of millions worldwide.

Although I've been a blog fan since the beginning, and have written favorably about the value added to journalism and public knowledge thanks to the new "citizen journalist," I'm also wary of power untempered by restraint and accountability.

Say what you will about the so-called mainstream media, but no industry agonizes more about how to improve its product, police its own members and better serve its communities. Newspapers are filled with carpal-tunneled wretches, overworked and underpaid, who suffer near-pathological allegiance to getting it right.

That a Jayson Blair of The New York Times or a Jack Kelley of USA Today surfaces now and then as a plagiarist or a fabricator ultimately is testament to the high standards tens of thousands of others strive to uphold each day without recognition. Blair and Kelley are infamous, but they're also gone.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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