When I wrote my post "Journalism from a software persfapective" in February 2006, my understanding of semantic systems was virtually non-existent. The most obvious hole in my thinking was, quite obviously, my ignorance of the role of RDF in XML.
However, the logic of the DRY Principle was indisputable: if every referenced fact has a clear, unambiguous, uniquely identified representation, and if we share those facts and make them easy to reference, our confusion over what things mean would be greatly reduced.
This was of particular interest to me as a journalist, because it was clear in February 2006 that people in the United States were living in separate realities, with the most uninformed news consumers clustered on the right, where they were further insulated by their belief in the "liberal media bias" of non-conservative media.
So I support DRY as a journalistic value primarily because it offers us the opportunity to build a press defined not by whether one is a professional or an amateur, a reporter or a blogger, but by whether we link to facts in a transparent way.
But when I first imagined a DRY reporting interface, I had no idea how we could pay for such a thing (a curated fact base, a means for entering facts, a means to review and update them, and a word processor that checks our writing against the fact base in real time). My idea was incomplete.
Over the past four years, however, I've come to understand that DRY would not only work without unweildy organizations, it would pay for itself. Rather than debating factual claims, DRY journalists would focus on properly translating declarative statements into RDF and editors would emphasize proper storage, syntax and nomenclature. As our directories of meaning expand, certain claims will validate. Others will not.
This task -- the semantic markup of the world's information -- is larger than the profession and avocation of journalism. The question is, what will drive people to undertake their portion of that knowledge? How can we get them to cooperate? And so on.
I believe the ultimate answer is that DRY gives us the opportunity to make money. I believe that the profits we'll derive from explicitly annotating the world's information will cover the cost of the work. I believe that the difference in quality between DRY journalism and non-DRY journalism will be sufficient that organizations will be forced to choose between adopting the standard or going out of business.
I now believe that DRY journalism will become a cooperative endeavor, with non-journalists taking up the task in their own self-interest. So long as we make this relatively easy, and so long as we follow standards that allow for machine audits, then our future mass media will find itself deeply involved in the expansion, connection and normalization of thousands of individually curated directories of meaning.
Such a system will never be perfect, and like any system, it will be fraught with controversy and peril. But cooperative knowledge is a worthy goal, and profiting from reliable information is an excellent business.