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Hullabaloo


Sunday, March 27, 2005

 
Journalist, Heal Thyself


LA Times Media critic David Shaw claims in today's paper that bloggers don't deserve the reporter's privilege because they are lazy, careless and inaccurate. In the process of explaining why, he makes a couple of whopping mistakes that one can only assume he makes because he is lazy and careless. (subscription only, sorry):

It isn't easy to define what a journalist is --- or isn't. Forty or 50 years ago, some might have dismissed IF Stone as the print equivalent of a blogger, writing and puhlishing his muckraking 'I.F. Stone Weekly." But Stone was an experienced journalist, and his Weekly did not traffic in gossip or rumor. He was so highly regarded by his peers that he was widely known as "the conscience of investigative journalism."

Bloggers require no journalistic experience. All they need is computer access and the desire to blog. There are other, even important diofferences between bloggers and journalists, perhaps the most significant being that bloggers pride themselves on being part on an unmediated medium, giving their readers unfiltered information. And therein lies the problem.

When I or virtually any other journalist writes something, it goes through several filters before the reader sees it. At least four experienced Times editors will have examined this column for example.

[...]

If I'm careless --- if I am guilty of what the courts call a "reckless disregard for the truth" --- The Times could be sued for libel ... and could lose a lot of money. With that thought --- as well as out own personal and progessional copmmittments to accuracy and fairness --- very much much in mind, I and my editors all try hard to be sure that what appears in ther paper is just that, accurate and fair.

[...]

Many bloggers --- not all, perhaps or even most --- don't seem to worry much about being accurate. or fair. They just want to get their opinions --- and their scoops --- our there as fast as they pop into their brains.

[...]

But the knowledge that you can correct errors quickly,combined with the absence of editors or filters, encourages laziness, carelessness and inaccuracy, and I don't think the reporter's privilege to maintain confidential sources should be granted to such practitioners of what is at best psuedo-journalism.

[...]

Certainly, some bloggers practice what anyone would consider "journalism" in its roughest form -- they provide news. And just as surely, bloggers deserve credit for, among other things, being the first to discredit Dan Rather's use of documents of dubious origin and legitimacy to accuse President Bush of having received special treatment in the National Guard.

But bloggers alos took the lead in circulating speculation that what appeared to be a bulge beneath Bush's jacket during his first debate with Sen John Kerry might have been some kind of transmission device to enable advisors to feed him answers.

No credible evidence has emerged to support such a charge.


In the first case, the Columbia Journalism Review did a thorough debunking of the blogging "journalism" in the Dan Rather case.

And there is ample evidence from real gen-u-wine accurate 'n fair jernlists that the NY Times pursued the Bush bulge story, was ready to run with it and killed it as it drew too close to the election. A NASA scientist came forward with sophisticated imaging to prove it (as Salon magazine reported at the time.) The Times' science editor Andrew Rivkin, who contributed the bulk of the reporting, had told [ombudsman]Okrent that the scientist’s assertions “did rise above the level of garden-variety speculation, mainly because of who he is. ... He essentially put his hard-won reputation utterly on the line." Certainly, the bizarre denials by the white house --- that it was "bad tailoring" should have made any legitimate journalist question what was going on. This was not just idle blogging gossip.

So, in his scathing article about blogging malfeasance and inaccuracy, David Shaw missed the mark in both of his examples.

I'm only sorry that you can't link to the whole story. If there has ever been a better example of self-righteous elitism from a total fuck-up, I've never seen it. Mr Shaw makes quite the fool of himself.


Update: Here's a link to the entire article.
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