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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Sorry state of affairs

Harry Shearer has a feature in his radio show entitled "Apologies of the Week." We could fill that up all by ourselves, just from the last 48 hours.

The easy ones first: Senate President Robert Travaglini apologizes to Gov.-elect Deval Patrick for firing a warning shot across the bow that the Massachusetts Legislature isn't about to give up the authority it had over a Republican governor and a body that doesn't have enough Republicans to field a baseball team.

A no-brainer (basically the same thing that allowed Trav to open his mouth in the first place.) This activity was akin to male dogs marking their territories. He said in public what he should have demonstrated in private by muscling some piece of legislation through.

Who knows. Trav could still have the last word if he actually allows a vote on the gay marriage ban -- dropping a hot potato in Patrick's lap two days before he is sworn in. That would get the same message across in a far more forceful way than mere words.

John Carroll and Greater Boston apologize to Blue Mass Group.
The big bad MSM admits it got something wrong in a segment last week. The blogosphere erupts in triumph.

Not quite as simple as that. Carroll and Emily Rooney concede that Carroll failed to see the satire in a MyDD posting (frankly so did I). Far less consensus on whether a pre-taped segment with BMG's David Kravitz had his words taken out of context in a taped segment of the previous show (he did not. It's called editing.)

Bloggers who had been calling for Carroll's job, head and assorted body parts (sarcasm alert!) seem satisfied with his mea culpa and an acknowledgment of their value by Carroll and host Emily Rooney.

But there's still a call for Dan Kennedy to offer a supine admission of error when he continues to insist (as do I) that the real culprit in this is a New York Times op-ed that was not (and should not) have been fact checked for the purposes of a five-minute segment.

Two root issues here: craving for respect by the blogosphere, which is often portrayed as pajama-clad citizen journalists who do a better job than the MSM at holding politicians accountable, while at the same time offering a disdain for the MSM, because of the errors it makes. That's because the standards are different.

As I stated before, while journalists can be bloggers, bloggers are not journalists. Some can break news, but for the most part the blogosphere is yet another interest group working to shape policy and opinion. Something like what Andrew Card labeled the MSM in a New Yorker piece.

But if bloggers want to be considered journalists, they need to practice what they preach. I find fact-checking in many blogs to be non-existent. There are bloggers paid by candidates or companies and some don't disclose those connections. If ethical standards are good enough for journalists, they ought to be good enough for serious bloggers.

But there doesn't seem to be anywhere near the same amount of interest in self-policing (my opinion and happy be be shown facts to the contrary). Until that happens, bloggers need to develop tougher skins if they dish out criticism.

As for the Eileen McNamara-Scott Allen Miller tussle, I'm staying clear of that one.

Oh, I should have mentioned that Apologies of the Week are a copyright featured of Le Show. I'm so sorry.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, come on. Like you say, blogs are interest groups, essentially, they're generally run by people with clear agendas and axs to grind, and some blogs have anywhere from dozens to hundreds to thousands of participants. Any idiot can have a blog.

There's simply no comparison between that and the MSM. Bloggers can be important sources of information, but everyone already knows, or should know, to take that information with a grain of salt. Most bloggers aren't even professionals, and they certainly don't have resources to chase down stories, for the most part. The difference in degree between Crazy Eddie the Pie Guy from Debuque making an error and so called responsible journalists, highly paid professionals who either get privileged access to the public airwaves or represnt one of the increasingly limited newspaper options in an era of consolodation of ownership playing fast and loose with the facts can't be compared.

There's a level of automatic trust with the mainstream media simply because there are so few outlets for getting information, I know many, many people who watch a two minute segment on the Nighly News and think they're extremely well informed on the subject and don't need to go investigate any further on their own, so it becomes rather significant if they're not bothering to get their facts straight or being highly selective in what information is and is not included. There isn't the same degree of skepticism as there is with blogs.

So Crazy Eddie makes an error, what can we do? Don't trust him next time, stop visiting his blog. The problem is when NBC uses Crazy Eddie (or other unreliable sources like, say, Bush) as a source and continues to rely on him time and time again without any independent verification. The media have been doing a terrible job, they've been lazy reporters and been spun and deceived time and time again, and if this guy doesn't think an NYT op-ed should be fact checked instead of taken as the Gospel, maybe he should place a quick phone call to Judy Miller.

December 17, 2006 12:18 AM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

It's up to the New York Times to fact check their own stories and op-eds -- not readers. It's been part of the bargain that we can trust what's in the media -- or question them if they mess up too much.

We have not even come close to that level of trust with blogs and bloggers -- and won't for a long time as long as the attitude is I can whine but you can't.

December 17, 2006 9:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Um, yes, it's up to the New York Times to fact check their own stories. But, if I intend to go on TV as a so-called journalist and make statements and allegations based on a story in the NYT, it would also behoove me to do a bit of independent to verify whether or not the NYT is accurate. Being too lazy to do so and then whining "It's the NYT's fault! They're lazy, complacent reporters who didn't fact check their own story, so ignore the fact that I'm also a lazy, complacent reporter who didn't bother to see if the one source I'm using was accurate before repeating it as gospel!" rings a bit hollow. Trying to deflect the incompetence of respectable mainstream journalists by saying that bloggers make mistakes rings a bit hollow as well. Damage done by Judy Miller in helping to steer up war mania, damage done by the blogger who totally overstated how much K-Mart charges for yarn...equivalent? Is there any transgression by bloggers that's equivalent to the NYT's railroading on Wen Ho Lee? If anything, bloggers are more responsive to corrections by readers, the MSM rarely admit they got it wrong and enjoy a level of trust that's perhaps undeserved.

December 17, 2006 11:17 PM  

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