Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Challenge, The Echo Chamber, The Mainstream Media, and The Bloggers

Yesterday, I posted a strong objection to Michael Shear’s and Gordon Cross’s challenge to bloggers to do more original work. While I wish f.t. rea and all the other bloggers who signed on, great success with their experiment, “A Weekend Without Echoes,” I still feel that Shear and Cross were being somewhat disingenuous in their original objection that bloggers depend too much on other people’s work.

I’m not talking here about those bloggers who simply cut and paste a bunch of material from other sources without any original comment or thought of their own. ft rea is right that there are too many who do indeed resemble that kind of echo chamber. But a good many bloggers link to stories in order to comment on the news of the day. They are not doing the original reporting. But they are offering up their unique opinions and points of view about current events. I think that is a valid addition to the marketplace of ideas. In fact, bloggers aren’t the only ones who do exactly what Cross and Shear seem to be objecting to. Below is a brief excerpt from today’s Washington Post editorial (italics and bolding are mine, not in the original):

“AS REPUBLICANS this week began a series of hearings on immigration policy, President Bush was reportedly signaling new openness to compromise designed to produce legislation this year. The compromise, according to a report in the New York Times, would center on "enforcement-first": improve border security, as a majority of House Republicans want, and only then move on to the guest-worker program and legalization for illegal immigrants that Mr. Bush and a majority of senator s favor.”
As you can see, the Washington Post, a major national daily newspaper with a large budget, many writers and reporters of their own, and a subscription to the major wire services and syndications, still refers to a report in the New York Times as the jumping off point for their lead editorial.

So, how is that different from what a lot of bloggers do?

In fact, a conscientious blogger will give the reader a link to the original report so that the reader can peruse it himself and check the blogger’s accuracy. He’s providing the original source for the reader as well as giving his own opinion.

Of course, for technical reasons, a print newspaper can’t do that. But even in their on line version of the above editorial, the Washington Post didn’t link to the original New York Times report and didn’t credit the reporter either. I know when I link to an article or report, I try to include the name of the reporter who provided the original source and often the title of the article as well as the link. The reporter deserves the credit for doing the original report and the reader deserves to see the article on which I based my opinion and comments.

My main point yesterday, though, was that bloggers are not journalists. There is no obligation for us to go out and report the news. Some bloggers who have time, resources, skill, and talent may choose to do so. I not only have no objection to a blogger reporting the news, if he does a good and accurate job, I applaud him for it.

But just as newspapers have editorials, op-ed columns, syndicated columnists, and letters to the editor, blogs can have posts that are solely the authors’ opinions and not original or investigative reports. But nobody can have an opinion in a vacuum. In order to make a persuasive argument, the writer has to present evidence for his point of view. To get that evidence, he must do research, marshal his facts and present them in his essay. And any conscientious writer will give credit to his original sources. That’s all linking is.

That’s all the Washington Post did when it referred to the New York Times report. And that’s all countless other authors do when they write, whether it’s for magazines, scholarly journals, or non-fiction books. And that’s what I’ll continue to do. On July 21 through 23 and every day that I post.


Melissa said...

I just realized, I have no idea what your email address is. Hit me up at and I'll email you the study.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Ok. I'll check my emails and email you a little later today. And thanks!

TCO said...

Your posts are very thoughtful. Kudos.

P.s. Too bad that you are a liberal.