Thorough Fact-Checking and Verification

by on August 20, 2007 · 0 comments

Michael Skube, a professor of journalism, writes a column bewailing the low quality of reporting in the blogosphere:

Bloggers now are everywhere among us, and no one asks if we don’t need more full-throated advocacy on the Internet. The blogosphere is the loudest corner of the Internet, noisy with disputation, manifesto-like postings and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined.

And to think most bloggers are doing all this on the side. “No man but a blockhead,” the stubbornly sensible Samuel Johnson said, “ever wrote but for money.” Yet here are people, whole brigades of them, happy to write for free. And not just write. Many of the most active bloggers — Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, Joshua Micah Marshall and the contributors to the Huffington Post — are insistent partisans in political debate. Some reject the label “journalist,” associating it with what they contemptuously call MSM (mainstream media); just as many, if not more, consider themselves a new kind of “citizen journalist” dedicated to broader democratization.

Marshall, who’s got a whole site devoted to investigative reporting, emailed Skube and learned that Skube doesn’t actually read Marshall’s blog. Apparently, an editor suggesting added Marshall’s name, and Skube agreed without bothering to learn much of anything about Marshall or his site. And Matt points out that neither he nor Sullivan are blogging “for free.”

Which makes this awfully rich:

Such a story demanded time, thorough fact-checking and verification and, most of all, perseverance. It’s not something one does as a hobby. The more important the story, the more incidental our opinions become. Something larger is needed: the patient sifting of fact, the acknowledgment that assertion is not evidence and, as the best writers understand, the depiction of real life.

We could definitely use some of that. I’m looking forward to the LA Times op-ed about how the mainstream bloviating business is inadequate because it can’t match the blogosphere’s rigorous peer-review process.

Hat tip: Yglesias

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