Friday, January 02, 2009

Jett Travolta's Death Says Something About News Authority

I was surfing around the Web today while watching football games and I stumbled on a notice that John Travolta and Kelly Preston's son, Jett died today while they were vacationing in the Bahamas. I wasn't particularly familiar with the site and so I immediately went to look for more information. After all, as a person who was a teenager in the 1970s, I was as big a John Travolta fan. Also, Jett's news was tragic regardless of what you thought of his acting parents. Soon I found TMZ reporting this and I knew that site had more credibility than most entertainment news sources, but this young man was only 16 and the source was still "entertainment news." I was looking for a more reliable source.

Soon I began to find it in more traditional sources and learned that young Jett often suffered seizures and John Travolta had been quoted saying "we almost lost him" in a TV interview a few years ago. However, the cause of death was conflicting. Some sources said he injured himself in a bathtub, while others said it was a seizure. I assume it will be concluded that if a head injury was involved, it started with a seizure.

It took a few"clicks" before I found a page that I considered authoritative and it made me think about the way people perceive web sources. In spite of the rise of blogs -- there are over 133 million of them on the Internet -- I believe people still want to get their news from traditional sources. The more traditional, the better, it appears. I didn't fully embrace the validity of the story until I read it in Reuters (showing my bias for business news I assume).

As someone who writes four or five posts a week, I find this a little disconcerting. Although it is true that some blogs carry more authority than others and this one is written by someone with twenty plus years experience in journalism, it is still a blog. When I did my search based on authority, I instantly dismissed articles that were blog sources.

There are reasons why there are 133 million plus blogs on the Internet today and it isn't because people have nothing better to do than write them (well, not all of them at least). I know many read mine, as I find quotes by me on other blogs and news articles and I get emails and calls from others about my posts. But the gap between traditional and new media remains obvious.

Note: I hate for my analysis to distract from the tragedy of the passing of a teenager who is far too young to die. However, I will leave stories about him to those who are more eloquent than myself to write such. I leave it to those who know him and the family far better than I do. As a father, I find this story particularly tragic and send my sympathies.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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