In a world dominated by informal media, the issue of what news sources are most legitimate is hugely important–most current, most personable, most relevant in terms of focus and selection of items, most insightful, and most trustworthy.
The world of informal media now has two main legitimizing institutions, each of which has its strengths and weaknesses. I wonder if we might invent more?
The first are the A-list bloggers. Dave, Dan, Joi, Glen, Markos, and Doc, etc. The good news is that these folks hold their places in large part because they do important work for the community, and they do it diligently and well. They got where they are by dint of contribution. The downside is that network effects have locked these folks in, and they represent a particular subset of the burgeoning world of informal media. As has been noted in recent weeks, for example, this group is heavily dominated by men, and men of a certain age. This is not to criticize the A-list bloggers, just to say that it is difficult for new folks to break in now, and this may become a problem as the blogosphere expands.
The second is Google page rank. Non-transparent, mysterious, but very legitimizing for some purpose. Essentially, Google turns the links that folks maintain on their web sites–the link rolls, the pointers, etc, into an implicit tagging system. The good news of this system is that it can encompass an almost infinite range of topics, as many topics as can be meaningfully described in keyword searches. And it is quite open in that a new, ermergent topic can be established, gather a cluster of links, and become searchable without any human intervention or permission and even notice on the part of Google. The downside is that Google ratings do not show much personal expert judgement, they are slow to stabilize around a new topic, and tend to point to works back in time rather than current contributions.
Note that Google News is current, but focuses on formal media and does not provide much legitimizing of sources. Sources in the formal media world are self-legitimizing through their brands and promotion of those brands.
Of course their are other legitimizing institutions, with powerful if specialized influence. Slashdot is wildly popular, with quickness, openness and transparency, relevance and personality in the tech space, if less effective at selection and insight.
Global Voices is playing a wonderful and unique role in pointing to and legimizing informal media around the world.
Commercial blogs are playing an important role. Think Boing Boing. Highly pesonal and relevant and insightful. But they are generally not very transparent and open. There is some question as to whether the advertising and editorial sides of their businesses are effectively separated. These are commercial versions of A-list bloggers.
And tags on de.licoi.us are coming on strong, within the community of active, hard core digerati. Unfortunately these tags do not yet reach a mass audience. BTW you know what would be cool? An A-list blogger or team of bloggers who followed and reported on interesting developments in the world of de.licio.us and Flickr tags, and evangelized reading and writing tags, and the formation of tag communities. Tagging for the rest of us.