The power of empowering the masses
Today we had a visitor at the Travel Channel Academy.
A representative from an O&O in Philadelphia, she said that the local news station was starting to get concerned because The Philadelphia Enquirer (which fields about 125 reporters a day), was starting to equip their print reporters and photographers with video cameras.
Her station fields 6-8 cameras a day to cover Philly.
It’s a realistic concern.
The local news station is going to get buried alive unless they can change their approach to news coverage.
But a great deal of their problem lays not in the technology, but rather in the mentality. A kind of arrogance – we are the nobles, the elect, the elite of electronic news gathering.
It’s an interesting idea, but it won’t take them too far.
In 1798, France was in a shambles. The Revolution had shaken the country to its core, and the nobility, who had previously made up the military, were dispersed and soon to be executed in The Terror.
Before 1798, armies had been made of highly trained professional soldiers. Career soldiers. Nobles – a concept derived from knights and the cost of maintaining each soldier. It was a nobleman’s career. Not for the peasants. They tilled the field.
Napoleon’s genius (among much genius) was to empower the peasants and create an army from their ranks. No one had ever done anything like this before. Had there been no Revolution, no execution of the Bourbons, it would never had been tolerated. But moments of revolution create moments of opportunity for the bold. And Napoleon saw the potential in Citizen Warriors that no one else could see.
When street rabble rose against the National Convention at the Tuileries, Napoleon organized them and took control, and hence an idea was born.
Napoleon would ultimately raise an army of nearly 1 million men, an almost incomprehensible force in an 18th Century Europe in which an army of 30,000 was considered large; and wielding that power, would come within a hairs-breadth of conquering all of Europe. Even so, he would stand astride Europe, from the Atlantic coast of Spain to The Lebanon – a feat that had not happened since the Roman Empire.
This was the power of the Citizen Army.
I look at the local TV station with their anemic 6 crews to cover a city of several million people. Then I look at training room for The Travel Channel Academy. In this one room is 6 times the power of an entire local news operation, and this is only scratching the surface. There are millions who would ‘take arms’ (in a digital sense), for the cause of a better public discourse.
Who will have the vision and the courage to do for journalism what Napoleon did for military power?