August 5, 2005

Hoist Upon Her Own Petard

Nancy Clark writes a sports column for the Des Moines Register. Bloggers could be forgiven for having never heard of her, but she certainly has heard about bloggers, if yesterday's column gives any indication. She gives vent to a hilarious rant about the credibility of the Exempt Media while denigrating bloggers ... and manages to unwittingly demonstrate why the blogosphere exists in the first place.

First, one has to understand how frustrating it must feel to write a sports column in Des Moines. Iowa's capitol has a population "approaching 200,000", making it more equivalent to a suburb in most places, and hardly attracting much attention from sports teams. That explains why Clark's lead sounds so humorous:

Today I'll be talking with Dan McCarney. The bloggers won't.

I'll also be posing questions during Iowa State's media day to Bret Meyer, Todd Blythe and Jason Scales.

The bloggers won't.

Monday, I'll be chatting with Kirk Ferentz.

The bloggers won't.

I'll also get in a word at Iowa's media day with Drew Tate.

The bloggers won't.

Tuesday, I'll interview Mark Farley at Northern Iowa's media day.

The bloggers won't.

Just when the reader wants to scream, "Who??", Clark says, "This isn't an exercise in name-dropping." Well, no kidding. Her point, such as it is, is to explain that she gets paid to go out and interview people, while bloggers don't. She finds the news herself, firsthand, and then goes through an extensive editorial process through which truth gets delivered to the readers.

Does she know this through personal experience? Uh, no. She had to read a report to figure that out, apparently taking up much of her summer so far:

The State of the News Media Report is an annual review by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, part of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in New York.

The conclusion of the 600-page report was that the traditional "journalism of verification," in which reporters check facts, is being infringed upon by a new model of journalism that is "faster, looser and cheaper."

What results from this bypass of the editorial process that constitutes the "journalism of verification"? Clark explains:

In the new "journalism of assertion," as the report calls it, information is offered with little time and little attempt to independently verify its voracity.

Voracity. Yes, the Exempt Media gets voracious in its attempts to aggrandize themselves at the expense of their readers, especially those who deign to criticize their work. Unfortunately, I believe Clark meant "veracity", which means "truth" and "accuracy".

Great work so far on the part of the layers of fact-checkers and editors. It gets even better from here.

In other words, bloggers and some radio and cable talk show hosts make up stories and spread rumors. Too often, consumers don't know the difference between these lies and mainstream news reports.

Perhaps consumers can't tell the difference between them because the mainstream news reports are the lies.

The report on the threat to traditional journalism focused on political reporting - remember the allegations by the "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" that, after weeks of reporting, were found to be unsubstantiated?

Really? Which allegations? The allegation that Kerry lied about his Christmas in Cambodia? The lies about David Alston having served with him during the Silver Star engagement (as well as Alston's lies at the Democratic convention)? His fibs about gun running to the Khmer Rouge for the CIA? Instead of doing actual research on the story for herself, Clark simply parrots a party line that she assumes will go unchallenged. Nothing of significance that the Swift Boat vets alleged in their well-documented book has ever been successfully challenged; the media instead just started reporting that the Swiftvets had conducted a smear campaign and hoped the historians would accept that as a given.

That makes her last piece of advice especially humorous:

Don't accept anything you read on them as truth unless it has been independently verified.

That's why the blogosphere exists, Nancy -- to fact-check lazy columnists who don't check their work. Glad to meet you. Oh, and by the way, I interviewed Lynn Swann and J. C. Watts last year. I interviewed Bernard Goldberg and Rep. Mark Kennedy. You didn't.


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