Dining Club was set up earlier this year by Richard Addis and John Torode (not the celebrity chef John Torode, the journalist John Torode, who also happens to be my dad) with the objective of getting a smart, eclectic mix of people together to discuss issues of the moment - in the past they have welcomed the likes of Ben Schott, Anna Ford, Norman Tebbit and Saira Khan. Dining Club takes place at the Gay Hussar restaurant in Soho, an old-school journo hack/politician hang out, that serves some of the best Hungarian food (and in particular the best duck) in London.
Tonight was specifically to do with media and in particular the future of newspapers. Anthony O'Hear gave a fairly dour after-dinner speech about the fact that, paraphrasing TS Eliot, we had given up our wisdom in return for limitless, 24/7 information. (Where is the Life we have lost in living, Where is the wisdom that we have lost in knowledge, Where is the knowledge that we have lost in information) ,
It was an interesting discussion with the group seeming to split along generational lines - with one half of the room declaring that the abundance of information, so long as you can navigate through it and find the good stuff, is the perfect springboard for increased knowledge and wisdom. The other older half more anxious about the growth of the Internet , user-generated content, citizen reporters etc. To them this indicated a lessening of journalistic standards and a lessening of wise editorial control and guidance.
I don't get depressed when I see circulation numbers falling for newspapers. You just have to look at the rising readership from around the world of sites like Guardian Unlimited, www.wsj.com, www.economist.com, www.ft.com. There is still obviously a need and want for informed, edited pieces of comment and opinion but it just isn't always a paper-based need. In addition to more traditional sources of information now found online, the Internet has opened up lines of communication between people around the world, some of them are educated and informed, some simply opinionated but all with a point of view. The fact is that if I want to know the inside scoop on new movie shooting in LA, the Beltway gossip in DC or the best new club in Brooklyn I will go to a Blog not a newspaper. To me that's exciting and positive, but to print journalists it's slightly terrifying. Eye-opening to see that there are people who really believe that the Internet and Blogs in particular are simply channels for broadcasting conspriacy theory-laden, bigoted rants.
Information is the foundation for knowledge and wisdom, not a barrier.
(BTW, There's an interesting PDF on the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom hierarchy - the concept has been explored by Al Gore in Digital Earth and others)