Let's begin with this snippet (thank you Scotty) from Thomas L. Friedman's 6/27/07 op ed piece:
Three years ago, I was catching a plane at Boston’s Logan airport and went to buy some magazines for the flight. As I approached the cash register, a woman coming from another direction got there just behind me — I thought. But when I put my money down to pay, the woman said in a very loud voice: “Excuse me! I was here first!” And then she fixed me with a piercing stare that said: “I know who you are.” I said I was very sorry, but I was clearly there first. If that happened today, I would have had a very different reaction. I would have said: “Miss, I’m so sorry. I am entirely in the wrong. Please, go ahead. And can I buy your magazines for you? May I buy your lunch? Can I shine your shoes?”The recent media-vs-cops incident in Napa is a case in point. KGO-TV's crew covering a fire on Atlas Peak was busted by some Napa County Sheriff's deputies. The reporter, Wayne Freedman, saw his cameraman getting strong-armed. Knowing that the cops bringing the hammer down on a TV news crew would be a better story than the puny fire, and realizing they'd never get it on tape since the camera was snagged by the deputies, Freedman whipped out his cell phone to grab the video that way. (As it turns out, there were other TV cameras rolling, although none seems to have caught the deputy knocking the cell phone out of Freedman's hand. Some reports say the deputy may have thought Freedman was drawing a weapon and reacted instinctively - KGO's reporting gives the impression it was a jack-booted kind of censorship action. Don't know if we'll ever get the definitve story.)
Why? Because I’d be thinking there is some chance this woman has a blog or a camera in her cellphone and could, if she so chose, tell the whole world about our encounter — entirely from her perspective — and my utterly rude, boorish, arrogant, thinks-he-can-butt-in-line behavior. Yikes!
When everyone has a blog, a MySpace page or Facebook entry, everyone is a publisher. When everyone has a cellphone with a camera in it, everyone is a paparazzo. When everyone can upload video on YouTube, everyone is filmmaker. When everyone is a publisher, paparazzo or filmmaker, everyone else is a public figure. We’re all public figures now. The blogosphere has made the global discussion so much richer — and each of us so much more transparent.
But back to the point that "we're all public figures now." It's not surprising that some intense raw footage is available from this incident. After all, it was a media staging area and plenty of cameras were on hand. But there are an equal number of cameras hiding in cell phones at every Starbuck's, street corner, bowling alley or car wash, and security cameras everywhere you look. It's surprising that any kind of crime in public places goes unsolved. If people kept their cool when there was a purse snatched there would be 17 photos of the perp available.
More here from Friedman (we're back to the writer now, not the reporter. Please try to keep up.)
The implications of all this are the subject of a new book by Dov Seidman, founder and C.E.O. of LRN, a business ethics company. His book is simply called “How.” Because Seidman’s simple thesis is that in this transparent world “how” you live your life and “how” you conduct your business matters more than ever, because so many people can now see into what you do and tell so many other people about it on their own without any editor. To win now, he argues, you have to turn these new conditions to your advantage.
For young people, writes Seidman, this means understanding that your reputation in life is going to get set in stone so much earlier. More and more of what you say or do or write will end up as a digital fingerprint that never gets erased. Our generation got to screw up and none of those screw-ups appeared on our first job résumés, which we got to write. For this generation, much of what they say, do or write will be preserved online forever. Before employers even read their résumés, they’ll Google them.
“The persistence of memory in electronic form makes second chances harder to come by,” writes Seidman. “In the information age, life has no chapters or closets; you can leave nothing behind, and you have nowhere to hide your skeletons. Your past is your present.” So the only way to get ahead in life will be by getting your “hows” right.