I know what you’ve been thinking: man, I’m tired of reading unfounded rumors reported as news. Yeah, me too. Really, I am. So let’s fix this. Let’s stop reading blogs—I mean, you know all they do is just post anything that comes into their heads, foundation or not—and stick to the venerable guardians of all truth, the mainstream media. They would never run a thinly-sourced story or publish rumors, and we know that every word they write is as from the mouth of God.
Okay, you may have picked up on my sarcasm. What I really meant to say is that truth these days is a highly collaborative endeavor. I can’t possibly corner the market on that, and beyond my network of sources-who-shall-not-be-named (and how’s that for “journalist integrity”?!), I don’t hope to find all the facts. I have to run with what I can find fast, and hope that we can find the full set of facts as commentators come forward. Oh, and I guess we should hope that people read the comments, too, if I can’t find the time (or enough interest) to do a followup.
Dang. That snark’s still in there, isn’t it? Well, that’s the two sides of the debate the New York Times raised this weekend. The NYT accurately points out that the blogosphere is regularly aTwitter (*snort*) with rumors, from a single source—or none at all. Many of them don’t pan out to be true; some do. The implication here is that blogging is an unreliable medium (and that if you want “just the facts, ma’am,” you should stick to the bastion of journalistic integrity. Because they’ve never gotten anything wrong, you know).
Jeff Jarvis is taking up for the defense, saying that (newsflash!) blogs and mainstream media are fundamentally different. Whereas MSM tries to collect “all” the truth (as if that were possible—and let’s pull an Indiana Jones and just stick to facts, mmkay? If it’s truth you’re looking for, Dr. Tyree’s philosophy class is right down the hall), blogs see fact-finding as a collaborative effort. So while bloggers make a good-faith effort to check sources, there’s nothing wrong with reporting what they know (especially since even in the NYT’s examples, the bloggers like Michael Arrington acknowledged that they didn’t have much corroboration in their posts), and finding the full set of facts in the comments. It’s the process of journalism that’s important rather than finished product.
Personally, I don’t think either side is totally right, except that they both acknowledge this: blogs and mainstream media are different. Arrington might want to take on the NYT, but his reportage is a completely different arena than that which the NYT operates in (and no, I don’t mean tech startups). The fact of the matter is that reporting rumors is par for the course in the blogosphere and verboten in MSM.
And that’s okay. I think people understand that when they turn to each type of course, and people largely get what they’re looking for.
What do you think: is blogging questionably reliable? Is MSM hopelessly fettered by old-school mentality?