Over on Scripting News, Dave Winer says he's interested to hear what I have to say about how the tables got turned on Microsoft when Microsoft's Robert Scoble (claims to be blogger) ended up issuing corrections to the reporting done by The Register's Andrew Orlowski (assumed to be a journalist). In a related blog entry -- and in a demonstration of the realtime vetting (of anything) that only the blogosphere is capable of -- Scoble starts to keep score of the ensuing diligence.
Although Winer makes it clear that one should never assume anything from the things he says or does, I think it's safe to assume in this case that he picked me because of the way I fact-checked something that Scoble wrote about Technorati. Although that horse was pulverized to death and beyond and a cease fire of sorts was declared, the discussion led to several others that eventually produced some in-depth looks at Technorati and other services like it. Winer forked the discussion into one of the ongoing academic debates about blogging and journalism. In a post of his, Winer argued that by taking some chances on certain facts (as opposed to checking them), "Scoble is doing the right thing. They should try to understand how he works, because it produces much better results than the system Gartenberg and Berlind are advocating. Demonstrably much better." Now, with the shoe on the other foot as Scoble-the-blogger fact-checks Orlowski-the-journalist, it's a good time to continue that discussion.
So, Dave, stepping back from the trees to look at the forest, I see two examples here of where the truth -- or at least the target's intention -- was flushed out on very short order after certain writers
took some"chances." took some chances or liberties [editor's note: see update below]. In this recent case where Microsoft and IE7 were the targets, the truth is apparently still surfacing as I write this blog. In fact, the truth is surfacing with all sorts of gory details that we probably wouldn't have gotten even if Microsoft was contacted with a battery of fact-checking phone calls and e-mails. So, I have no argument with the point that your "system" produces results. It does. But, in my 15 years of journalism, I've come to learn that one man's collateral damage is another man's casualty. Forget fact checking. I've seen how it just takes one minor typo (the difference between does and doesn't) to send armies of people in to spin control in order to undo whatever damage was done.
So, in deference to those who I think deserve fairness, you'll just have to forgive me for having faith in a system that, for me (I can't speak for others with demonstrably different results), has routinely produced far fewer casualties as a different means to the same truth. That's not to say it hasn't produced casualties. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. Just fewer of them.
[Update: Since writing this blog, I've noticed that The Register's Andrew Orlowski is brow-beating Robert Scoble with insulting appendages to his original article and it started to ring a bell. After a bit of Googling on the Net, I found a piece written in 2001 by Orlowski that ripped me to shreds because of my opinion that browsers should be built into operating systems if one of their functions is to provide uniform graphical access to multiple/dissimilar filesystems regardless of whether they're local or at the end of some network "pipe" (NFS, SMB, FTP, HTTP, etc.). About the only typo he could justifiably complain about was my confusion of acronyms (the IEEE with the IETF). By the way, I still stand behind that four year old opinion.
As you can tell by his coverage of that opinion, Orlowski's intent wasn't to provoke thought about an interesting, controversial subject (back then, building browsers into operating systems was a dicey subject for Microsoft). Orlowski routinely seeks opportunities to ridicule other people. So, as you can see, I edited the blog above to include the word "liberties" with "chances."
First of all, no journalist makes a phone call to check every word he or she writes. So, in the spirit of the blogging/journalism discussion, I think it's fair to say that from one author to the next (regardless of what they think of themselves as: journalists, bloggers, etc.), you'll simply find some taking more chances than others. I've taken plenty of chances in the the things I write (confident that I have it right) and I've seen some journalists take chances that many bloggers I know wouldn't dare take. The degree to which such chances should be taken, particularly with the media revolution that's currently afoot, makes for a provocative and fun discussion that's very worthy of passionate debate. But, in what he writes about IE7, Microsoft, and Scoble and in what he has written about me and others, Orlowski doesn't take the sort of chances that Winer is referring to. He has, for as long as I've been familiar with his writing, taken liberties instead -- liberties becoming of a buffoon. Not of someone who is interested in the truth.]