Friday, March 24, 2006

They Ain't Gods - Only Mortals


I've said many times how much I love Molly Ivin's work. Her latest article is a good example.

However, she does suffer from one small quirk common to most all news people and it is a quirk, not a flaw. They think they are "the" sources of all that is accurate and truthful.
Television, radio and newspapers are all cutting staff, while the bloggers of the Internet either do not have the size or the interest to go out and gather news. Bloggers are not news-gatherers, but opinion-mongers. I have long argued that no one should be allowed to write opinion without spending years as a reporter -- nothing like interviewing all four eyewitnesses to an automobile accident and then trying to write an accurate account of what happened. Or, as author-journalist Curtis Wilkie puts it, "Unless you can cover a five-car pile-up on Route 128, you shouldn't be allowed to cover a presidential campaign."

Bullshit.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not trying to defend myself. My spot in this swirl of blogs is to try to post info I think people might miss and try my best to post earlier than others. Most US bloggers are asleep when I'm blogging. I often catch breaking news within seconds.

I also often usually offer my opinions. Those opinions are as well informed as I can make them or just based on experience. Those opinions are mine and can be accepted or rejected by my readers based on thier opinions, experience, trust or beliefs.

Other bloggers are more informed and knowledgable than I in many areas and have sources and experiences I haven't. I would never challenge Juan Cole, Redd Hedd, Jane Hamsher nor many others. They provide info as good as, if not better, than MSM reporters.

Damn! Shouldn't have started listing bloggers. There are far too many and omissions signify nothing.

Finally, I'm no celebrity and thus am not in anyone's spotlight. I've been interviewed by radio stations, television stations and newspapers on a few occasions. So each reporter was "covering the five-car pile-up on Route 128" as it were. In every single interview I gave, without exception, the reporter made factual mistakes and erroneously quoted me on something. Usually the errors were significant. So "being there" doesn't guarantee reliable information or accuracy. I'm just saying.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Joyful Alternative said...

Long ago, but not so long ago that I don't remember it, the New York Times printed speeches in full. Now it prints little excerpts, which in its opinion are the important parts, and then offers its opinions on what the speech really means, whether it was good or bad, what the speaker didn't say, etc.

So what's really the difference between its work and ours? That its posters get paid? That they're chummy with their sources? These advantages are not likely to result in greater objectivity.

But I'm very fond of Molly and I'm going to consider her statements her professional blindspot, like psychologists dissing the work of advice columnists or lawyers dissing a write-your-own will book.

3/24/2006 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger spiiderweb™ said...

joyful alternative,

Exactly. And I've found much more, in my opinion, relevant or important parts of a speech the reporter or editor overlooked.

Sometimes, because we bloggers have to be careful with our research, we may spot a trend or something the speech addressed or added to and we know it's significant to the "whole" picture.

Even ABC News recognises the growing importance of bloggers. See my post titled "Beware Of The Bloggers".

3/24/2006 08:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nothing personal against you or Molly, but I'm just kinda tired of the whole argument. I'm going to blog regardless of what anyone thinks about it as a source of news. On the other hand I cannot go to New York much less Iraq so I have to rely on news outlets that have the money to send professional reporters, which all the bloggers use as sources. Its our analysis and fact checking that has some importance, not bloggers as primary sources. I almost think of blogging as posting those opinions on the internet that would have just stayed within the walls of the kithcen sitting around with friends. As Kos has noted the center-left blogs have kicked up a ;ot of dust, but they haven't won any elections yet. maybe someday, but until then what Molly or whoever thinks is nothing to give much mind to.
One more thing. We, the Democratic side tend to see the internet as a source to spread the truth, but the right is using it just as hard and fast to create the same noise they've always created. Thinking about ways to cut through the noise would be more productive then getting a little peeved at a cloumnis that is at least on the right side.

Wendy

3/24/2006 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger spiiderweb™ said...

Wendy,

Point well taken and I agree.

BTW I'm not peeved. When peeved I use much of the profanity I know.

Truth is I've said Bush wouldn't be in office if the electorate had listened to Molly. She knows Bush and how incompetent he is.

Now how can I check out your blog if you don't mention it?

3/24/2006 09:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, Spidey, I thought Molly's point was that people who have worked as daily journalists are especially qualified to understand that the MSM is riddled with inaccuracies. One only has to spend a week writing obits to discover that even in such a limited sphere, and taking all the care in the world, you are still going to make errors. And, the family will notice them.

Your comment is really just the flip side of what Molly is stating: she is saying that journalists, at least good ones, will have the humility to know that neither they nor anyone in the MSM can get all the details right; the best they can hope for is to report a somewhat correct big picture.

You, on the other hand, as a subject of news stories, are not in the position of the journalist writing an obit, you are in the shoes of the family reading the story and noticing the errors.

I would suggest to you that the proper reaction to the observation that the MSM cannot cover your two-car funeral accurately is not to have contempt for journalists (at least on the basis that they are fallible in reporting facts -- you can have contempt for journalists, but on other grounds), but rather simply to recognize that fully accurate reporting is an impossibility.

And, that is actually the very same lesson that I think Molly has drawn from her personal observation that it is impossible not to make errors in covering a two-car funeral.

Both sides of the coin -- the journalist and the subject -- should draw much the same conclusion: reporting accurately is impossible.

The subject of an inaccurate news story, however, needs to take an additional leap: the errors are not usually the product of maliciousness or even of unacceptable incompetence; rather, they are inevitable. And, this inevitability of error, not incompetence or viciousness, is the reason to be skeptical of the press.

Journalists, on the other hand, have far less of a leap to take: they should know in their bones, and without the need to make a cognitive leap, that stories are riddled with inaccuracies and must be taken with a grain of salt and put in context, because all daily journalists themselves have made many, many errors, no matter how much care is taken.

Again, the best both sides of the reporter/subject coin can hope for is a broadly accurate picture.

3/24/2006 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger spiiderweb™ said...

anonymous,

I don't have contempt for reporters and seriously doubt any malicious intent. And I never question Molly's reporting skills. She is one of the best journalists in America.

You're right that I'd notice even a slight error in reporting if I'm the subject. The mistakes I was mentioning were not minor.

Something I don't understand is why you think Molly is cognisant of the accuracy problem. She questions it among bloggers, but seems to give a free pass to journalists. Do you have an example?

I love reasonable discussion.

3/24/2006 11:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Joyful Alternative said...

I've proposed a local news blog for my town of 25,000. The police department is willing to provide the police blotter daily; the school board is willing to provide meeting transcripts. I figure every other public body would also be accessible, and no doubt volunteer fire companies, churches, etc., would be delighted to provide schedules, activities, and the like. That's the kind of unfiltered information I'd like to have available to me. I realize the local newspaper can't print and deliver all this detail, but it ought to be available to the general public--and to reporters--to supplement the broader regional picture.

Now, all I need to do is win the lottery, and I can get it rolling.

Actually, somebody more ambitious than I am could sell advertising and make a living on this news blog idea. Pass it on.

3/25/2006 11:42:00 AM  

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