The Difference Between
Broadcasting and Narrowcasting
The Means, But Not the Power
The plan was to use e-mail to announce the decisions to a select group of 21 news
organizations. A special code message would be included in the e-mail to
ensure authenticity; it would include the words of John Adams: "Facts are stubborn
things." Paper copies of the case would be given only to the prosecution and the
defense, as they needed the materials in hard copy in order to formulate any
appeals. No one else would receive anything in paper form.
One news report says this scheme was the brainchild of Judge Zobel's son, a
college student. Another report labeled the son a "computer expert." Other reports
say the son and the judge's clerk, "a techie", concocted the scheme.
The press seemed to thrive on the idea. Television anchors praised its high-tech
nature. Internet advocates spoke of the pioneering nature of the plan - though
some admitted that it is now fairly routine for courts to put up the full text
of decisions on Web sites.
Specialty Web sites saw an opportunity for publicity. Lycos announced a deal
with Lawyer's Weekly, proclaiming they would offer the only "real time" delivery
of the verdict. Earthweb issued a press release bragging that their real time
chat software would bring an orderly, immediate Internet based chat into focus.
It's hard to count the number of oxymorons in these claims.
Irony abounded as old media covered new media: Television and radio reporters stood
by in Elton, England, the manslaughterer's home town, showing the locals in the pub
watching a big screen television - which showed a Web page being reloaded from
time to time.
There was only one problem: it seems some Boston electric workers had other plans.
While working in a manhole outside the offices of the court's ISP, Software Tool
and Die, they accidentally turned off the power for the ISP. Over one hour later,
at 11:02, the court administrator, Jim Klein, was able to get his e-mail posted.
Not only had the Internet plan not sped things up, it's clear that it slowed
down dissemination of this much-anticipated court ruling.
The New York Times quoted Jim Gralnick, the official in charge of abcnews.com,
expressing his frustration: "The medium is still a fragile one. It made reporting
the story incredibly difficult."
Doesn't anybody realize that the whole scenario was ludicrous? I've seen many
cases of the emperor's new clothes when it comes to Internet stories, but this
one boggles the mind.