Bloggers v. Journalists (Again)
Tuesday, September 12, 2006 :::
Somewhat in keeping with Conaway's discussion of the local media and the role bloggers play in it, Danny Glover has a post on one USA Today columnist's assault on blogs and the idea of rhetorical "deathtraps":
But what Kantor and most of my other journalistic brethren fail to acknowledge -- either out of ignorance or self-delusion -- is that bloggers are merely imitating (probably unintentionally) the worst of what they see in the mainstream media. "Professional" journalists long ago mastered the art of blowing small things out of proportion. They are experts at building informational deathtraps. And very few get fired when they screw up and hurt someone. Some even get rewarded for it.
The fact is that both the professionals and the amateurs have much to learn from each other. We pros can teach the journeymen how and where to dig for great stories, how to treat people fairly in coverage even when you disagree with them, and maybe even how a bill really becomes a law. The amateurs can teach the pros how to better use the tools of the information age, show us the humility necessary to work effectively as a team, and help us recapture the passion that lured us into the business in the first place.
"Blowing small things out of proportion" might include the great "macaca" episode, Mrs. Reagan's dislike for the Webb ad and Lord knows how many other items that, in the greater arc of a political campaign, are so much noise. That's not to say that such items don't have a cumulative effect on a candidacy. They can and do (Ed Muskie's tears, anyone? Or how about Michael Dukakis in that tank...and let's not forget George Romney being "brainwashed" or Jerry Ford's sudden liberation of Eastern Europe).
Reporting bungles, bloopers and outright blunders has always been a staple of establishment reporting. That bloggers would ape such behavior, then, is understandable -- it's in the genes.
The idea that each camp could learn something from the other ought to be common sense. Generally speaking, bloggers are not reporters. Rather, bloggers tend to write what they know -- be it politics, science, theater, car repair or cat wrangling (yes, they are probably all related). Many of them have more or even better knowledge of particular subjects than the reporters who cover them. In those instances, reporters can learn from bloggers.
But what about the reverse? Can bloggers learn from reporters? Well, we seem to have a lock on trivia. But Glover is correct when he says that reporters can help bloggers understand how to ferret out sources and, yes, even give the other side its due.
Glover's conclusions are worth noting in full:
Ironically, the conclusion that Kantor reached about citizen journalists can be turned around on my industry with just a few tweaks. "[Professional] journalists are here to stay. ... But if they hope to be taken seriously -- beyond [the prestige of their many] press passes or [heavily marketed and sensationalized] scoops -- they need to take that next step beyond [their ivory-encrusted] toolbox. They need to learn [anew] the best ways to use it."
Then and only then will the professionals have the right to lecture the amateurs about how to produce quality journalism -- and only then will they not want to.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 9/12/2006