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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thin skins

An interesting conversation is taking place over at Blue Mass Group: are bloggers journalists and are journalists lazy and careless? My quick thoughts -- no and sometimes.

First things first. Journalists can be bloggers, but bloggers are not journalists. Simplest reason? Journalists, despite what you might have heard from the "fairandbalanced" folks at Fox, really do try to be objective and present both sides of an issue. Sometimes they get used by sources exploiting that bias, but journalists are scribes, reporters on the first draft of history.

Some journalists -- under appropriate labels or on designated pages -- do write analysis and opinion. But being trained as a journalist and having spent more than a decade working a daily beat, I can tell you that is not the root task of most reporters.

Are some journalists lazy and careless? Yes. As with every job, you can get cozy and comfortable and come to expect handouts instead of working for them. Or you can be a slave to your organization's overall philosophy (yes there are liberal publications -- as well as conservative ones).

At the other extreme, you can get careless in the crush of deadline and accept things as "facts" because you don't have the time to check it out.

Bloggers, on the other hand, traffic in opinion. Oh, we may "break" information here and there but for the most part we are pundits, prognosticators and thumb suckers. I try to link to stories that back up or verify my opinions, but I am no longer a journalist and make no claim to be. In fact, I feel liberated by blogging and and sharing the opinions I always kept out of my daily reporting work.

Now back to Davis Kravitz's lament. Without having watched the segment, I can see one serious flaw in his argument: John Carroll attributed everything about paid bloggers and MyDD to The New York Times. If Carroll is guilty of anything -- and I don't think he is -- it would be he did not check out the Times' original reporting.

If Kravitz has a beef, it's with the Times. And I don't think he does have a beef. Rather he is learning the uncomfortable fact of life when a person shifts from opinion giver to opinion leader. It's something I experienced when shifting from journalism to PR and I know first hand how unpleasant it is to see something in print or on TV that's not quite what you meant to say.

Journalism should be added to the lineup of things you should not see being made -- along with sausage and the law. Things do get sliced and diced, as some BMG commenters note.

But for people who traffic in opinion -- as do the guys at BMG -- it rings a little hollow to talk about not liking how someone slices and dices you in what is NOT a news story in the classic sense but a set-up piece to lead in to an opinionated discussion on a topic. All sort of cliches come to mind, such as one about dishing things out.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoy blogging as much, if not more, than reporting and would be thrilled have to take a little heat because that means people are reading. And this is not a rap at BMG, which has become a daily stop for me (and whose Blog Roll I would love to join!).

What this is really all about is that if bloggers want to be "players" in the political world, we better learn to develop a thicker skin. Although a thin skin doesn't seem to have hampered Tom Menino. :-)


Blogger Peter Porcupine said...

"Without having seen the show..."

That says it all right there, doesn't it? I DID see the show in question.

Kravitz's annoyance is having a taped video interview excerpted to support John Carroll's interpretation of the New Your Times article, using David's words to suggest that bloggers don't take the issue of transparancy and money from campaigns seriously.

Your postulating in absence of actual source material, relying instead upon the reputation and opinions of others, does indeed mark you as a journalist.

December 10, 2006 2:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh oh, we now have a small circle of bloggers talking only to each other . . .

December 10, 2006 3:36 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

No but I can read a transcript of the remarks in question that are included in the post. And from that reading of that actual source material I'm suggesting, the Carroll lead-in is something very similar to a blog post -- using quotes to back up an opinion.

My own experience with John Carroll is that, while is he good at what he does, I've never really considered him a reporter (a term that more accurately reflects my background than the grandiose term "journalist.") That's my own opinion, based on my own observations.

I did say I welcome criticism because that means someone is reading the blog. But I would think a Porcupine would have a tougher skin too. :-) Thanks for the responding and let's do this again some time. It's good for both of us!

And anonymous -- don't worry about getting caught in the circular firing squad!

December 10, 2006 5:36 PM  
Anonymous Lynne said...

Here's my real problem: I believed the idiot (Carroll) on Friday night. He is, after all, a "respected" journalist. I said to myself, "Dear god, did Jerome really go out as a paid blogger and pretend to be someone else?? Shame on him!"

Now, if I were not a blog reader, that would be one of the largest things informing my view of Armstrong. It would color my view on blogs in general. It DID color my view of Armstrong. This is why they need to be held accountable and make a very humble apology and retraction. Personally, I'd get rid of that talking head Carroll on top of that. Never liked him much anyway. (And despite that, I respected him enough to believe him. Because he's a journalist chosen to bloviate on a PBS station I like! It's kinda sad actually.)

December 10, 2006 11:33 PM  
Blogger Outraged Liberal said...

No argument from me that something needs to be clarified/corrected. This represents one of the biggest problems of the media echo chamber, picking up a mistake and running it into vast new territory. A search of a week's worth of Times corrections found nothing -- but more importantly the public editor's blog wasn't updated since Nov. 16. That's bad.

For Carroll's critics over his failure to respond -- let's see what today brings. Greater Boston is a Monday-Friday operation. It is important for them to follow-up, even if the original error is in the Times.

December 11, 2006 5:04 AM  

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