I was browsing through my RSS reader this morning and I came across an article that was published by the New York Times last Saturday. The piece was titled Get the Tech Scuttlebutt! (It Might Even Be True.), and it was basically questioning the credibility of blogs (especially the tech ones), which according to the article often publish rumors without the care to check sources and verify facts.
My thoughts after reading it? What a bunch of hypocrisy.
There are two reasons for my reaction. First of all I won’t deny that blogs get it wrong sometimes, but so do newspapers! Jeff Jarvis, who was following the discussion around that article, posted on Twitter that it is pretty easy to find rumors spread by the New York Times, too (and he links to two examples).
Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, also run an extensive response to the NYT article, where he mentions another couple of stories where the mainstream newspaper screwed up.
The second reason for my reaction is what Jeff Jarvis called Product vs. Process Journalism. Here is a quote from it:
In The Times, Damon Darlin goes after blogs for publishing rumors and unfinished stories, calling it a “truth-be-damned approach” and likening it to yellow journalism, the highest insult of the gray class. He hauls out the worst example again – just as bloggers trying to go after MSM reporters do: the Steve Jobs heart attack rumor and Times WMD reporting (or Jayson Blair or Dan Rather), respectively.
Darlin leads with TechCrunch and Gawker sharing bogus rumors of Apple buying Twitter. He acknowledges that TechCrunch said in its post that it could not confirm the story. But still, he uses it to jump to the first of his broad-brush generalizations: “Such news judgment is not unusual among blogs covering tech. For some blogs, rumors are their stock in trade.” Couldn’t one say the same thing about political reporters who spread rumors and trial balloons, knowing they are just that, or business reporters feeding rumors and speculation about mergers or firings? Blogs are hardly alone in scoop mentality. Newspapers invented scoops.
I think Mr. Jarvis has hit the nail on the head with his post.
The NYT article is basically slamming blogs for publishing rumors that can’t be confirmed. What they are missing is that those blogs are not passing those rumors as truths, but rather being upfront with their readers and letting them see where the things are coming from. Some of the rumors turn out to be wrong and die, while others evolve (often with the interaction of readers, bloggers and anyone else involved in social media), and end up becoming real stories.
As long as the process is handled with 100% transparency, I don’t see anything wrong with it. In fact, it could even be a better approach.
New media is not destroying real journalist, it is becoming part of it and changing it at the same time.
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