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Wired runs a provocative article today which argues that journalists find it increasingly difficult to maintain blogs along with their reporting. Media outlets have started to actively discourage even their free-lancers from blogging, and analysts question the effect on credibility when reporters opine on line:
For all the press that bloggers have received for revolutionizing journalism by bringing Gutenberg's printing press to the digital masses, when push comes to shove, journalists who operate personal weblogs face an inherent conflict of interest. In the end, it's the blogs that usually get short shrift.
And according to some, that's the way it ought to be. As Jason Calacanis, founder of Weblogs and publisher of the defunct Silicon Alley Reporter, put it in an e-mail: "Blogger + reporter = big problem. I wouldn't do that, and I'm sure it will end in tears. I know as an editor of a magazine or newspaper I wouldn't want my paid editors putting scoops out on their blog when those scoops could be driving and growing the print product."
But it's not just about who gets the scoops. A more serious question is how can bloggers, whose success depends largely on sharing unvarnished opinions, also work as so-called objective journalists?
Adam Penenberg asks a tough question, one increasingly asked by editors throughout the industry. CNN, Time, and the Hartford Courant all forced reporters to stop blogging, at least for a while, while the Wall Street Journal and New York Times issued stringent guidelines on outside work. None want the taint of bias -- which has destroyed the credibility of CBS News -- to creep into their newsrooms.
But the industry has it backwards, as Penenberg suggests. No one believes that reporters or newsrooms have any real objectivity any more, just biases that they hide with varying degrees of success. Once in a while, and now more often that before, that veil of chastity slips off and we see the biases we always suspected were there all along. CBS allowed Mary Mapes to run wild on the TexANG story not just because she had a successful track record, but because the story she developed fit within the existing biases of Mapes and the other CBS executives. If any doubt that, ask CBS when their investigative report on John Kerry's six-years-delayed honorable discharge aired.
Like Penenberg, I would encourage reporters to blog, and for their editors to acknowledge the biases at play in their newsrooms. Allow the customers to fully understand from what context the news comes at the various media outlets. The British print media operate with biases in the open, allowing readers to make an informed judgment on the content based on the source. The peekaboo game that the American media plays does little justice for its customers -- and in the long run, for themselves as well.Sphere It View blog reactions
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