Ironically, it took a massive data dump by one of the online upstarts, Wikileaks, to make the point.
As you probably know, Wikileaks published some 92,000 "secret" documents about the war in Afghanistan on Monday. It was hot stuff and ignited protests from the White House to President Karzai's compound in Afghanistan.
Pundits on all sides seem to think the leak would undermine already uncertain public support for the war.
But for the average reader, much of the Wikileak itself was military gibberish like "TF 2-2 using PREDATOR engaged with 1x Hellfire missile resulting in 1x INS KIA and 1x INS WIA."
All in all, it was the kind of stuff that could confirm whatever pre-conceived notions were rattling around in a reader's head. That's where the mainstream media proved its usefulness.
The New York Times, the Guardian of London, and Der Spiegel of Germany had all been given advance copies of the material by the WikiFolk. By the time the Wikileaks themselves landed on people's hard drives, those three perpetrators of mainstream journalism were not only providing an English translation of the military jargon, they were putting it all in context.
Wikileaks demonstrated, as few experts could, that the most important role a journalist can play is to mediate between the raw unspooling of events and those of us who would understand them.
One of the gravest dangers we face -- and perhaps a major source of society's increasing polarization and alienation -- is that we now have the technology to tap into events as they occur, but not necessarily the capacity to understand them.
As we learned this week, that's what journalism is for.