Bloggers and journalists responsible for shades of gray between them

Bloggers and journalists responsible for shades of gray between them

Summary: 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.

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TOPICS: Microsoft
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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.]


Topic: Microsoft

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18 comments
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  • Ready, Fire, Aim

    I think both sides of this argument (bloggers/journalists) need to
    be as accurate as they can or they both become nothing more than
    National Inquirer stringers.
    I'm not a big fan of the "Ready, Fire, Aim" approach espoused by
    some.
    PXLated
  • Minor typo

    A minor typo is the difference between does and doesn't? Are you insane?
    zenosox
    • The result isn't minor....

      It's the difference in the spelling of the two words that's minor and thus sometimes harder to spot when editing.
      dberlind
      • Restructuring Sentences While Typing

        In my own writing I find that the inadverent negating of a sentence is more often due to changing the sentence structure in the middle of writing it and either end up with a double negative (a positive) when I meant to only put one in or a double positive where I meant to have one negative.
        __howard__
      • Just a bad choice

        I accept the intent as you state it, but that is just a horrible example. To make a minor point you actual give an example where no means yes.
        zenosox
  • Journalist have credibility? Check facts? Hard to believe at times.

    Frankly given the relatively recent spat of major screw ups by so called journalists, I don't believe that they have any more credibility than bloggers. At least bloggers aren't pretending to hold themselves to a higher ethical or quality standard.

    I remember being taught in school that journalism was there to keep people informed and governments honest. Turns out the reality is that you just have another bunch of people with an axe to grind and a major pulpit to broadcast their opinions from.

    In general, I would rank journalists one step below lawyers and one step above politicans. Mind you, these are very small steps.
    __howard__
  • bloggers vs journalists

    so if you blog under the monnikker of a magazine (say ZDnet) does that make you a blogger or journalist?? The implication of using the magazine's credibility (in this case a tech saavy bunch, looking for public opinions on tech issues)is not an excuse for a lack of professionalism. If you want to blog as "just some tech guy", then it seems like you should find a forum that is not connected to an entity that is synonomous with the subject you are blogging on.

    If a "journalist" for Time magazine started a blog in which he stated that he believed atrocities were committed in Iraq, and then ignored/mocked people who were countering his view of events, precipitated and investigation, and was later proven not only wrong, but "fishing" for a story about atrocities he knew nothing of, somehow I think he would get fired, rightly so.

    Journalists should have a higher burden of proof than the "average joe" since there is the implication of firsthand knowledge that the rest of us are not privy to. I believe that journalists can carry on a blog about things they know little or nothing about, but that it should be stated (for reasons of transparency) somewhere in the post.
    pesky_z
    • 2nd hand knowledge okay ...

      [i]Journalists should have a higher burden of proof than the "average joe" since there is the implication of firsthand knowledge that the rest of us are not privy to.[/i]

      Actually, second (not third) hand knowledge. It is perfectly acceptable for a journalist to interview a bunch of people, quote them, and tie a story around it. But a journalist shouldn?t be interviewing someone whose mother?s cousin knows a guy who said that his wife?s sister ? which unfortunately is common these days.

      It is disappointing that even the journalism at National Public Radio seems to have slipped to the point that they use the format where a reporter interviews another reporter as if the second reporter is an expert on the subject versus interviewing the primaries.
      __howard__
    • Shades of gray

      constantly going over the distinction between journalists and bloggers is a bit draining. For the longest time (seems like forever), I wrote columns on ZDNet. Then, I was asked to blog. I'm the same guy, with the same opinions, writing the same things, fact checking them the same way. The only thing that's different is the frame and navigation around my words and the frequency with which I write. Am I blogger? A journalist? I guess beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I like to think of myself as "David Berlind." How you judge what I write shouldn't be influenced by the format in which it appears.
      dberlind
      • how can you check sources

        if you are involved in a real time discussion? And you are you, but not necessarily everyone has the same temprament, knowledge, or style. It's not what you say, but how you say it.
        pesky_z
      • My take on the difference ...

        With bloggers, the credibility tends to come from the person and the blogger is considered credible or not.

        With journalism, the credibility tends to come from the publisher and the publisher is considered credible or not.

        I've always considered blogging more like the editorial page of the newspaper ... that doesn't mean that all blogging forums treat it the same way.
        __howard__
        • so when you blog in the name of a publication

          such as ZDnet, you drag down the credibility of the publication with bad posts, incomplete information, or worse yet disrespect for the posters, which after all are the reason you have the forum in the first place. Editorialism, opinions and what have you are expected, but it is the level of the writing, and treatment of the contributors (which many times have more experience and information than the moderator)which make a "professional" blog. If you have to make stupid, inflammatory comments, use a psudonym, and don't insult the magazine you work for by adding that ZDnet icon to add some weight to a flimsy arguement.
          pesky_z
          • Borrowing reputations

            pesky, May I be so bold as to believe that even though your post was in response to mine it wasn't directed at me or mine? (I don't work for ZD-net).

            That said, I agree with what you said. While David Berlind is trying to establish his own credibility, when I read his articles published on ZD-net, he borrows their reputation -- and can either enhance it or degrade it.
            __howard__
        • Credibility comes from the publisher?

          Really? So, does your local news station promote "Weather by NBC" or does it promote "Weather by Al"? Suppose when William Safire was writing for the NY Times, he left to write for the Washington Post. Would he become more or less credible than he is, or would the newspaper he leaves become less credible whilst the one he joins becomes more. Do you think CNN told Paula Zahn to come work for it so she could become more credible than she was on ABC? Or, did CNN want her on its team to improve its credibility? The publisher's credibility is built on the credibility of the journalists it employs. Not the other way around.

          db
          dberlind
          • com se com sa

            The point is that William Safire built his credibility with the public, and yes, his credibility is enhanced when he works for a "credible" news outlet, such as the New York Times, or the Washington Post, probably two of the most respected newspapers in the country. As you probably remember the Times "purged" one of its newspeople for fabricating stories and tarnishing the reputation of the paper. In the end the publication lives and dies on the perception of honesty, integrity, and knowledge of its contributors, and the contributors generally try to live up to the standards set by the publication, and the standards adhered to by the other writers. I guess if ZDnet wanted to become the Star of the technology world, I would have to accept that fact, and treat the publication with respect due (none). It is the perception of integrity that allows leaps of faith in matters that you do not know about or understand. If I have no faith in the publication, then I tend to trust the content less (or not at all) no matter who the writer is. If William Safire wrote for the Star, I really couldn't take him seriously, no matter what his reputation.
            pesky_z
          • Excellent Point

            [i]become the Star of the technology world,[/i]

            Excellent point. I couldn't name you one contributor to the Star, nor could I name you more than possibly two contributors to the Washington Post. If both publications published the same article, by the same person, I would trust the Washington Post but more than likely scoff at the Star.
            __howard__
          • Publishers/Broadcasters control the news budget/policy impacting credibilit

            [i]So, does your local news station promote "Weather by NBC" or does it promote "Weather by Al"?[/i]

            Frankly, I don't know who does the weather. The weatherman has always been an interchangeable talking head to me. I've always perceived the quality of the weather report as associated with the publisher/broadcaster.

            [i]Suppose when William Safire[/i]

            Safire appears on the editorial page doesn't he? In my previous post I said [i]I've always considered blogging more like the editorial page of the newspaper ... [/i] The editorial page is the exception to my publisher-credibility rule.

            [i]Do you think CNN told Paula Zahn to come work for it so she could become more credible than she was on ABC?[/i]

            I figured CNN hired her to try and boost their credibility and/or ratings. To be honest though, I wouldn't be able to pick Paula Zahn out of a line up.

            Several factors affect the credibility of a news organization: which topics they pick, how much research they actually conduct, how often do they go off on witch hunts, etc.. These factors are controlled by the publishers/broadcasters more than the talking heads.
            __howard__
          • Consider the Source

            I suppose an excellent way to make the point about the credibility coming from the publisher, would you trust an article on the medical benefits and risks of marijuana from [i]The New England Medical Journal[/i] more, less, or the same as an article on the same subject from NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws)?
            __howard__