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Massachusetts Liberal

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

Friday, March 23, 2007

What's up with that?

The journalist vs. blogger debate has been well hashed out here and elsewhere, but one recent post by a journalist who blogs has me scratching my head.

Channel 4's Jon Keller -- whose journalistic credentials are lengthy and solid -- offers this observation:
I Hope We Never ....learn that there were political considerations behind today's awkward, invasive press conference by Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards and his wife to discuss her recurring breast cancer. Because as someone who's lost a beloved friend to that awful disease, the notion that some slick pol-on-the-make might exploit it for political gain is way off the scale of acceptability.
Keller is certainly entitled to his opinion -- in fact he has long made his living as a commentator/columnist who backs up his opinions with facts.

So Jon, is there something you're not telling us about John Edwards? If you don't have the facts to back up a gut suspicion, why are you going public?

The argument that journalists have made is that unlike bloggers, we traffic in fact (and time for another disclosure: I was trained and worked as a journalist before moving on to other pursuits and taking up my blog). Gossip, hearsay and innuendo are left for those guys and gals of the pajama brigade, or so the argument goes.

And there certainly needs to be a different standard. Witness the debate over journo-blogger Ben Smith's erroneous one-source report on Edwards.

It's no wonder then, we have another lively debate on this topic over at Blue Mass. Group. This one raises some serious questions about what and when journalists can and should put up on blogs.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, you are really asking, can you be a journalist in one life and a blogger in another? To the extent you have professional standards as a journalist, do you have to exercise those standards on your blog? Should people who come to trust you on the air or in a newspaper also trust what you say on your blog?

I fear that the lack of standards that are acceptable in the blogging world will ultimately contaminate the writing that even the best of reporters put on their blog. I fear more that the habits they develop on blogs could also ultimately influence the quality of what they put on the air and in newspapers.

It is up to editors to make sure this latter contamination does not occur. But as editors see more and more readers turn to blogs, they, too, may unfortunately lower their standards and let things pass into their public domains that were previously unacceptable.

March 23, 2007 6:12 AM  
Anonymous Joel Patterson said...

thanks for calling out Keller.

His post about Edwards shows a lack of standards on his part, regardless of whether he's wearing a journalist hat or a blogger hat.

March 24, 2007 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keller was a journalist (allegedly)uncontaminated by evil bloggers when he asked Deval Patrick an inane and insulting question about Willie Horton and furloughs (!). And also when, not content to make an ass of himself only once, he reitered the question at their next public meeting. And also when he included these clips in a package of his proudest moments as a journalist. (In case you're wondering, he was also a journalist when he wrote his "Quota King" article awhile back.)

The problem isn't blogging, it's that so many journalists lack professional standards to begin with and don't see anything wrong with that. I don't trust Keller because he's a proven tool, not because he's a blogger. And calling himself a journalist doesn't make the "information" he presents any more reliable or him any less of a tool. I don't give a damn what someone's called or if they've been to J school, I care if they're actually doing their job (ie, bringing pertinent information to the public in a manner not fatally obscured by their own weird obsessions and predjudices).

March 24, 2007 10:18 PM  

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