Blogs Are Blogs and News is News…

Squeezed May 7, 2005

OK, who at NPR forgot to give Jeffrey Dvorkin his Ex-Lax Tuesday morning? That person made him write this (via Unbossed):

Second, the blogosphere has proven once again to be an amoral place with few rules. The consequences for misbehavior are still vague. The possibility of civic responsibility remains remote. It is a place where the philosophy of “who posts first, wins” predominates.

Hmmm…sounds just like the commercial mainstream media to me, if you replace “posts” with “prints” or “broadcasts.”

Dvorkin was referring to an incident involving a Defense Department document regarding the shooting death of Italian agent Nicola Calipari. The softcopy report, in Adobe Acrobat PDF format, was released on NPR’s website. Large portions of the text were electronically blacked out for security purposes, but apparently, by copying and pasting the text into a separate word processor, lo and behold, the secret parts are revealed.

I haven’t seen the actual report in question, and it’s an unfortunate security breach to be sure, but to lay blame completely on the shoulders of bloggers is simplistic at best and unfair at worst:

  • Ask Adobe Systems why they didn’t make the blackout sections more secure so that it could resist cutting and pasting.
  • Ask the Defense Department why they didn’t release an edition to NPR with the sensitive parts deleted. Not just blacked out. Deleted. With a notation like, “[deleted] fired the fatal shot…”
  • And of course, ask the bloggers who first discovered this flaw why they didn’t act ethically and either keep it to themselves or inform NPR about it.

Dvorkin does note that the blogosphere has its good points, but that it’s definitely not journalism. He’s right. It isn’t, and as he points out, that’s part of its appeal. We can put fact and opinion together as we like, and we can use humor as techniques to get our points across. It’s a place for opinions, not news.

Speaking for myself, I can say that Freshly Squeezed is not a place to get news of any kind. And I can say that when I read blogs, I’m not reading them to get news. I can go to CNN or MSNBC for that. On the whole, bloggers aren’t journalists. We’re just ordinary people with opinions that are pushing to get out.

The blogosphere is the endless editorial page. Bloggers are not against the mainstream media. In fact, much of our material comes from mainstream media outlets (to the extent that they can be linked to via the WWW). And yes, it’s a wild world out there. But surely the blogosphere, public radio, and the mainstream media can coexist peacefully. With certain new challenges, to be sure, but there’s a niche for each.

Now someone give Dvorkin a Valium so he feels better, before he declares all-out war on the blogosphere.

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