Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Blogversation III: Blog Misinformation & "He Said, She Said"

Rottenchester has a great roundup on the lastest postings in the Blogversation, and I would like to thank Evan, Rottenchester, and Exile for allowing me to participate in this great conversation and apologize for not posting my remarks on the last topic until now. The last few days have been very focused on other issues. On Friday, I was covering the Kuhl announcement, and when I was prepared to write my Blogversation response on Monday, the Spitzer scandal broke, so all of my limited free time from work (which is the only time I have to blog) had to be focused on such a big story, since it's not everyday that your governor resigns.

So with that, I'll give a brief reply to the last questions which Evan asked. First, Evan asked if we agreed on whether we "would like to see more fact-based reporting -- instead of the 'He said, She said' style." I do agree that the media have an obligation to gather factual information and present it to the public, and naturally, a simple recap of what one politician says and then the adversary's response would not fall under that obligation. Sometimes these exchanges remind me of those hilarious "Point/Counterpoint" skits which SNL ran in the late '70s with Jane Curtain and Dan Aykroyd (you remember, "Jane, you ignorant slut..."). And yet this is what the media are accused of doing on numerous occasions. I wouldn't say it's a journalist being lazy, but rather the fear of bias which factors into a journalist's decision when reporting such matters. I understand the fear, and a journalist has to walk that fine line between "fact reporting" and an "opinion commentary," and in some cases, a vindictive "hit job" on a particular candidate or issue. Of course, as I've stated before, I'm not a fan of the "objective journalist" model, and would prefer reporters who wear their politics on their sleeves rather than claim their "bias free" when they're not, but as journalists continue to strive for "objectivity" when reporting on political affairs, these issues will only continue to grow.

As to the question about whether the rise of blogs will either increase misinformation or rise to a form of respected journalism, the answer is that both will occur, as it did in the initial rise in newspaper or TV reporting so many years ago. Just as we complain about bias in the media today, one must not forget that in the 19th century, many (if not most) newspapers had strong ties to (and sometimes fully backed by) one political party or candidate, which only added to the rise of yellow journalism. I mean, have you ever wondered why so many newspapers across the country have names with the word "Democrat" or "Republican" in them? The great thing about misinformation today is that it can be dissected and commented on in a matter of minutes. Look at how blogs played an active role in reporting on the CBS Memogate in '04. Within hours of Dan Rather's initial report, swarms of blogs were already posting the memo images and concluding that they were fakes. Naturally, blogs can also add to the spread of misinformation, but humans are a gossipy creature, so that will happen with or without the blogosphere.

So, with that, I'd like to thank all the participants again, especially 13WHAM for making this possible, and would enjoy the opportunity to do this again real soon!

1 comment:

Al Czervic said...

In the words of the Democrat Senator, now deceased, Daniel Patrick Moynahan: "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. No one is entitled to their own 'facts' ".

In newsrooms, the motto is: "Never let the facts get in the way of a good story"

Al Czervic Editor
The Catskill Commentator
The Fifth Column of the Fourth Estate