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The hard-line opinions of journalists are no substitute for the patient fact-finding of bloggers

Michael Skube is having a fit about the demise of what sounds like beautiful, beeeaaauuudiful journalism in Blogs: All the noise that fits.

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. Reasoned argument, as well as top-of-the-head comment on the blogosphere, will follow soon enough, and it should. But what lodges in the memory, and sometimes knifes us in the heart, is the fidelity with which a writer observes and tells. The word has lost its luster, but we once called that reporting.

Who’d have guessed that he’s describing journalism in the above?! Skube reads like an old journalist pro (and I use that word in the loosest possible sense) who bemoans the fact that his hard-earned ‘right’ to be published is being trampled upon by the barbaric hoards of bloggers. Well, the Big Editor in the Sky is no longer, there is just the internet with the online equivalent of printing press. With distribution bundled in. The bargain of the millennium. But the likes of Skube want to convince the world (or what’s left of those who haven’t taken to blogging) that this is bad for the luxury brands of MSM. We already know that, Michael. The real luxury is not having someone like you misrepresent what people are, do and mean by your selective ‘fact-sifting’, out of context quoting, and sloppy reporting. I am not accusing Michael Skube of such practices here, I’ll leave that to Ed Cone, I am targeting the entire profession here. I am an equal opportunity ranter.

It always amuses me – right after it annoys me – how his type (Andrew Keen et al) only trawl through the bad stuff online and construct their argument around the worst they can find. Granted, nowadays they find a parenthesis or two to reluctantly admit that bloggers have some influence.. but no matter, if things continue this way, we are all dooomed. DOOOOMED! Well, yeah, dude.

Instead of supporting their arguments about the plebeian nature of the blogosphere and the rubbish we are all inundated with, they merely demonstrate their lack of skill in navigating blogs and finding the daily gems. So Jay Rosen of PressThink put together a blowback that’s worth bookmarking – a collective effort of many to list examples of a blogger doing a journalist’s job. It has also been published in LA Times. For the record.

cross-posted from Media Influencer

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14 comments to The hard-line opinions of journalists are no substitute for the patient fact-finding of bloggers

  • Brad

    Funny isn’t it? Scholars derided newsprint for the same reasons. The world was abandoning books and relying on easily digestible 10 paragraph tracts written to a fourth grade level. Yellow journalism was a scourge. It’s not a very nice feeling when you become irrelevant.

    The blogs I especially like are the ones that provide short screeds, provide for comments, and are a portal for more study at a person’s liesure. I may not fully agree with particular stances, but I can choose to what degree I inform myself. Newspapers have limited time and space to provide for in depth studies.

  • Steevo

    Maybe he’s worried others do have more fun. Especially when its clear “the Emperor has no clothes.” His special status or stature is dwindling because of mere citizens who do not deserve to be important people. That should be reserved for the journalists, the gatekeepers of the Republic.

  • A hit, a very palpable hit!

  • Jacob

    His special status or stature is dwindling

    My impression is that journalism itself has declined a lot in the last years. It seems to me there were once good journalists who knew how to investigate an issue and write a concise and complete account is it, with all the facts clearly stated.

    That is no longer so. You can now read whole articles full of feelings and attitudes, and “a said this” and “b said that” and never know what it is all about, what the subject and the facts are. Just bad journalism (apart from biases).

    That is my subjective opinion, I don’t know if it is true.

  • Steevo

    I think its true, and getting much worse than mere ‘bias’. Here’s the final paragraph from an article with many recent and powerful examples from a very astute and long-time commentator for US News and World Report, John Leo:

    We now live in a docudrama world in which techniques of fiction and nonfiction are starting to blur. Many reporters think objectivity is a myth. They see journalism as inherently a subjective exercise in which the feelings and the will of the journalist function to reveal the truth of what has occurred. Two results are the emotional commitment to powerful but untrue story lines, and a further loss of credibility for the press.


  • Jacob


    I’m talking about something else. The article is about journalists who write false things, about made-up stories and unchecked stories that prove false and were published because they conform to the journalist’s biases.

    I was talking about plain bad journalism – the inability of the writer to get the facts right and convey them in the article, even in plain cases where no biases or personal opinion is involved. The inability, or unwillingness to understand his facts and write them down. Some journalists are unaware of the importance of facts and the need to convey them. They write about feeling and attitudes, leaving the facts out.

  • Jacob

    In the article Skube writes:
    “But what lodges in the memory, and sometimes knifes us in the heart, is the fidelity with which a writer observes and tells. The word has lost its luster, but we once called that reporting.”
    The trouble is the journalists themselves (many of them) have forgotten what reporting is. They substitute opinions and feelings for plain reporting.

    And journalists don’t believe in links, even in on-line articles. They think that links mean promotion for their competition. There are no links in on-line MSM except to articles from the same paper.

    Bloggers supply links. You can learn all you need about a subject beside what you read in the post itself.

  • Jacob: exactly. The word may have indeed lost its luster, but it certainly did not start with blogs.

  • J

    It’s good that there are people publicly challenging journalists. What’s far less clear is that all the challenges are justified. Move away from the boring world of current affairs, and there’s no shortage of blogs ‘fisking’ journalistic articles that are (in my view) perfectly correct. There’s something uniquely depressing about the happy residents of an alternative therapy blog uncovering the ‘lies’ in the latest scientific research into homeopathy. The depressing bit is that they have swapped uncritical belief in the authority of grey haired men with letters after their names, with an uncritical belief in the authority of people who write things that they like to hear. Likewise, I find it extremely annoying the way blogs give enormous credence to single primary sources (the “I heard it from someone who was there” syndrome), when my own experience demonstrates how dreadfully unreliable single primary sources are.

    Blogs perform a useful service in challenging journalists, but people must remain as skeptical of blogs as they are of journalists.

    I’m glad journalism is being critically examined, and I don’t object to the chaotic manner in which the internet conducts the examination, but replacing our faith in journalism with our faith in blogs is not a step forward.

  • Nick M

    One of the ways that blogging scores (at least somewhere like SD) is that if you make an error you will have your ass fact-checked very quickly indeed.

    Look at this.

    It helps of course that there is no fixed deadline to produce 500 words on such-and-such.

    Jacob, you’re absolutely right. The “he said, she said” method of “journalism” is very easy and if challenged you just say you’re being “balanced”.

    Oddly enough, I think blogging is bringing back the in-depth “bookish” approach to journalism. Blogs can specialize in a way the MSM can’t.

  • “barbaric hoards”


    They do have subs though….:-)

  • Steevo


    I understand what your saying. I think the line between general ‘sloppiness’ in not caring about facts and intentionally wanting to create a false picture for one’s own biases is very blurred. John Leo is describing a natural digression if you will. Journalism within our traditional MSM increasingly doesn’t care about facts, because… their emotions and sense of ‘rightness’ is more important to them and their portrayal of reality, further and further from a detached objectivity.

    I’m an American and haven’t read Mr. Skube but from the link provided with the report by Ed Cone, he explains these symptoms in Skube’s portrayal of bloggers.

    I called Michael Skube to learn more about his outlook on blogs, and verified that he knows very little about blogs and bloggers, and had done almost no research before writing his N&R column (unposted) (why?).

    It was a strange conversation, in that he told me twice that his real point about blogs was: “Who has the time to read them?” But the great bulk of the article is not about this odd habit some people have developed of reading on computers, it’s about trashing blogs and bloggers.

    Leo points out with his first example, Newsweek and their reporting on the Duke lacross players rape case. Newsweek didn’t say they were guilty of rape. Instead, they justified their own emotionalism and prejudice to demonize them, although they wouldn’t admit it that blunt. What this ‘reporting’ does is basically discredit the players’ innocence and honor and… allows their false accuser sympathy and ‘understanding’. So she really wasn’t all that wrong and the players are not all that not guilty.

    If anyone ever starts a museum of horrible explanations, the one-liner by Newsweek’s Evan Thomas about his magazine’s dubious reporting on the Duke non-rape case — “The narrative was right but the facts were wrong” — is destined to become a popular exhibit, right up there with “we had to destroy the village to save it.”
    What Mr. Thomas seems to mean is that the newsroom view of the lacrosse players as privileged, sexist, and arrogant white male jocks was the correct angle on the story. It wasn’t.

    Now, Cone quoting Skube…

    Choice quotes: “the narcissism of online diaries – which is what blogs are.”

    “Blogging is not…reporting…It is commentary, no different from street-corner preaching.”

    He quotes a study that finds that “the typical blog is written by a teenage girl who uses it twice a month.”

    Basically the same tactics are used.

  • Jacob,

    I do think your right, and I am pretty confident that this tendency has a lot to do with the fact that journalists tend to be trained in the sectors of academia where it is generally accepted that facts are socially constructed anyway and therefore can’t be objectively given.
    Perhaps the best illustration of this is the way interviews have changed. They used to be simple question-answer logs; now they resemble stream of consciousness narrations about a meeting the journalist had and in which the journalist’s experience is the centre of attention.

  • Julie in Chicago


    “They used to be simple question-answer logs; now they resemble stream of consciousness narrations about a meeting the journalist had and in which the journalist’s experience is the centre of attention.”

    Ah, you HAVE heard Studs Terkel’s interviews!!