Originally published: April 29, 2011
Last updated: April 29, 2011 - 4:00pm
One of the themes of the Activate conference, put on by The Guardian Media Group at the Paley Center in New York on Thursday, was the power of the networked world — including what Guardian Editor-in-Chief Alan Rusbridger calls a “mutualised” or networked media — to change society for the better.
In a panel on that topic, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark talked about his views on the importance of a free and open media industry, which he called the “immune system of democracy,” and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig talked about his efforts to fight corruption in government with a web-based project he calls “Rootstrikers.” Newmark talked about how important a free and “verified” press was to a democracy. The man who some newspaper publishers have accused of destroying their business models by taking away classified revenue, also said what the media needs more of is “the traditional journalism ethics of fact-checking and the separation of advertising and editorial.” Newmark said he is working with the Center for Public Integrity to create crowdsourced networks of fact-checkers and curators.
Lessig, meanwhile, gave an impassioned presentation that approximated spoken-word poetry at times, painting a picture of the revolutionary fervor that accompanied the formation of the U.S. republic in 1776, and how that original vision has been corrupted by money and powerful vested interests. Lessig said his new effort to collect stories and information about corruption, called Rootstrikers, gets its name from a quote by Henry David Thoreau, who said that “there are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
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