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Blogs vs. Mainstream: Who's sloppier?


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July 23, 2005

Blogs vs. Mainstream: Who's sloppier?

Stephen Baker

Rebecca MacKinnon is angry with Newsweek over what she calls sloppiness in the recent interview with her about blogs in China. Looks like she has some legitimate beefs. She was not identified correctly.

What I hate about the current climate is that every bit of sloppiness on the part of the media becomes prime evidence in the tiresome ongoing debate between mainstream and the blogs. David Weinberger has his say on the theme.

Since I described last week our laborious editorial process, let me add here that no level of care eliminates errors. We all run corrections on a regular basis.

What's more, a couple thing about the mainstream process, it could be argued, can actually add to errors.

#1) Space constraints. When sources give me a long title (vice president of such-and-such group and general manager of such-and-such division), I'm immediately thinking: That's going to cost me two lines! Real estate is precious on dead trees, which leads reporters to give sources title-ectomies. To be fair we should check with them before amending it. But that brings me to the next point.

#2) Lots of cooks in kitchen. Maybe another editor somewhere in the process will have a go with the title, or with some other piece of the story. Every person who touches a story is supposed to improve it. Many do. But each one can also add mistakes. In our system, the reporter gets has a chance to review stories after editors have been through them. But that's not always the case, especially in newspapers. How many times do you see in the NY Times, "Due to an editing error...?"

These are not excuses. I'm not saying it's OK to make errors, or that we don't make every effort to avoid them. But I think if people in blogs and mainstream better understood how the other side works, there would be more respect going back and forth, and less recriminations.

07:30 AM

mainstream media

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? Good enough from TechBlog

BusinessWeek's Blogspotting had an article on sloppiness of blogs and mainstream media. The 2 main reasons cited for mainstream media sloppiness are time constraint and too many editors. I think there is one another reason that is overlooked. "It i... [Read More]

Tracked on July 24, 2005 12:02 PM

It wouldn't be an issue at all if the MSM didn't so often differentiate itself from bloggers by claiming to be more accurate. Of course that doesn't mean the MSM have to be always and completely accurate, a standard no one insists on. But the tiresome drumbeat of bloggers pointing out errors is in fact one way of indicating that the occasional error in the MSM aren't all that occasional. Nor is their error-correction all that good.

The point certainly isn't that the MSM are supposed to be infallible. Quite the contrary.

So, I agree that pointing out a small factual error made by a newspaper or magazine makes for a boring, petty blog post. But enough of these posts and maybe we can abrade the MSM's claim of greater accuracy.

Besides, Rebecca is a friend :)

Posted by: David Weinberger at July 23, 2005 03:11 PM

Thanks David. It has been pointed out to me that you go by David, and not Dave, as I had it in the post. Sorry. Ironic that I would get that wrong in a post about name and title accuracy. Anyway, I've fixed it, but haven't yet figured out how to do those cross-out blog fixes. I know you can do them in MovableType, because Heather manages it...

I would say that bloggers are more than justified in pointing out errors in the work of mainstream journalists who boast being accurate. Those people are just askig for it.

Posted by: steve baker at July 23, 2005 06:45 PM

Steve, Try for strike-outs.

As for Dave vs. David: Thanks. It's not something I care enough about to correct someone about, although I definitely do prefer David.

Posted by: David Weinberger at July 24, 2005 10:02 AM

This article on sloppiness of blogs and mainstream mediacomes at appropriate time. There are several related threads across the blog community dealing with the same theme but in different areas.The 2 main reasons cited here for mainstream media sloppiness are time constraint and too many editors. I think there is one another reason that is overlooked. "It is good enough" syndrome. This is more prevalent that you think, not just in blogs but in every aspect of life. See my article on Good Enough in my blog if you are interested.

Posted by: un papier at July 24, 2005 12:05 PM

MSM have advantages over bloggers that they don't exercise well enough. For starters, journalists are paid to write, they have full time newsgathering staff, they have established advertiser relationships, established distribution, and established brands.

MSM has things that work against it: the copy editors are removed from the writers and make unintended errors; the goal of being "definitive" on every subject all the time inevitably leads to a lot of hemming and hawing while they are "first" but incomplete; extremely repetitive; there appear to be clear "party lines" no matter what journalists may say - seems like journalists can be penalized for accidentally speaking the truth - a lot of sanitized crap gets written as a result. And unfortunately, most journalists think accidentally speaking the truth means criticizing republicans.

The rise of blogs is about people hungry for a fresh interpretation of news and events, and not the stale AP or NYT toe-the-party-line type articles. I like to keep in mind that as high and mighty as the NYT thinks it is, they were against US intervention to prevent the holocaust during WW2, and are likely as wrong on a number of key issues today as well.

BusinessWeek is pretty brave with these blogs. I don't think you'll ever get to my ideal of a true "blog" (see link below for a multi-part definition), but you don't need to - acting as a real-time information clearinghouse that is open to real-time reader feedback makes this a useful, blog-like forum.

I've written a quick response to a BusinessWeek article on the top 10 investing blogs. Compare MSM to bloggers yourself!

http://ddo.typepad.com/ddo/2005/07/businessweek_on.html

Link

Posted by: Ed at July 25, 2005 11:47 PM


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