Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Peer To Peer Journalism

My take on blogging is that it is peer-to-peer journalism that reaches and resonates across a host of niche audiencess. I wrote about this in the April issue of Fast Company. A bunch of people wrote back and said, essentially, "what are you talking about?"

What is peer-to-peer journalism? The letter below was sent to me by a man who lives in Cupertino, California. I've never met him, had no idea he read my blog. He was responding to a couple of items I posted about New York City's precarious state. And he wrote:


In focusing on the delayed effects of 9/11 and the possibility of a second event, I think you're overlooking the certainty that the decline of the investment banking/finance era of the last twenty years has arrived. With all due repect to the efforts in New York during the 80s and 90s to turn around the city from its low point, what has been accomplished could not have been done without the once in a century finance boom that enriched Manhattan. As Warren Buffett has pointed out, much of this wealth (as well as the money that gushed into such places as Silicon Valley) did not constitute wealth creation, but rather, wealth transferrance. Little old ladies in Dubuque who put their life savings into Janus funds and insurance companies holding bonds in companies that leveraged up their balance sheets paid for Fifth Ave co-ops and Palo Alto mansions.

If the vast income from Wall Street is greatly reduced, New York's ability to support itself will be dramatically reduced. The only other source of growth in recent years, tourism, will be hard to maintain without the tax base that pays for police, street cleaning, park maintainence etc. I'm not a Bob Herbert fan either, but dramatic cuts in spending plus some tax increases are almost certainly coming up. The unwillingness of New Yorkers to consider more than trivial spending cuts/tax increases, depending upon their political view is not a good sign.

Let me end by tying this subject to the voting patterns of the 2000 election. The tendency of the wealthier parts of the country to vote overwhelmingly Democratic while poorer areas voted Republican has been ascribed to the importance of social issues ("guns, gays, and God"). Some of that is true, but I think that old fashioned economics played a bigger role. The Clinton/Bob Rubin policies brought unimaginable wealth to those areas that voted heavily Democratic. I don't have 1964 voting results available, but flipping through the World Almanac's county results for 2000 makes me suspect that Gore ran more strongly in counties like Manhattan, San Francisco, Nassau, and San Mateo than did LBJ. Based on my teenage recollection of antipathy to Goldwater in Bergen County, this is truly a remarkable swing.

At the same time, the areas that swung most heavily Republican from 1996 to 2000 are those that benefitted the least during the 90s. The continual deterioration of manufacturing in particular has created a sense of unease and insecurity that national economic statistics did not capture well. Journalists from NYC and DC were not in a position to feel the lack of satisfaction in much of flyover country during the campaign. I suspect they will be feeling a sense of economic insecurity, just as they did during the 1992 campaign.

Paul B.
Cupertino, California

I've written columns more or less non-stop since 1993. I never got mail like this in all that time. I get mail like this routinely off the blog. Please keep it coming.