Does Jesus read the blogs?

I received an interesting comment yesterday to an old post:

What you don't understand is that with the disintegration of dominant local media comes the disintegration of the local communtiy forum. If the Tribune disappears, no comparable news organization will take its place and stories will simply go unreported. Instead there will be ambulence chasing TV crews and bloggers passing off their baseless opinions as fact with no accountability. Journalism is essential for the survival of democratic representation.
What was interesting about the comment is the fact that WWJD posted it from the Great Falls Tribune. I frankly cannot believe that anyone from the Tribune would deign to post on a lowly blog, let alone this one.

Substantively, though, WWJD makes a number of what we might call 'newspaper-centric' points. While the Tribune is certainly a "local communtiy [sic] forum," I don't think it is realistic to call itself the community forum. In fact, short of letters to the editor, I don't think the Tribune was a forum at all until recently.

In this context, I think the word forum contemplates the discussion and exchange of ideas. Even with its electronic additions of late, the Tribune has, for the most part, always been a one way medium. They tell us things.

In fact, if we consider a forum as a place for discussion and contemplation, I think the writer seriously underestimates the blogosphere. While our local blogs might not have grown to the scale we see nationally yet, they will.

The writer then states that if the Tribune vanishes no comparable news organization will take its place. I am not so sure about that. In fact, that was the point of the whole series of posts beginning with the one upon which this comment appears: What will the 'new media' be?

Then comes the arrogance. First the writer slams television news. I'll let them defend themselves.

Next he slams us as "bloggers passing off their baseless opinions as fact with no accountability." First, with reference to "baseless opinions," I am not exactly sure what it is about a journalism degree that provides credibility to one's opinions about anything, while the opinions of someone else with, say, a law degree are "baseless." And, while there is indeed much garbage on blogs, there is much garbage in the newspaper. It is far from uncommon to find stories that are filled with unstated bias, bias by omission and outright mistakes.

Further, sometimes blogs do the jobs of the Tribune. For example, the Sam Harris story. It is my understanding that someone provided a tip to the Tribune about that story, and they ignored it. I don't know if that is true, but they sure did not hesitate to run the story after it was fully developed here and at Firefly's place. As another example, consider the coal plant issue.

I would put our coal plant stuff up against the Tribune's any day of the week. Our work is based primarily on the source materials rather than the words elicited in interviews. The source materials control the transaction; Mr. Lawton's statements do not. In fact, it has been pointed out to me that by so carefully avoiding any reference to parts of the story covered by this blog (arrogance again?), the Tribune is actually ignoring significant issues on the coal plant story.

Next, I guess am a blogger with "no accountability." What, though, is the Tribune's accountability? Just yesterday I pointed out an error in a story. While the Corrections section of today's Tribune pointed out two errors, the one I noted was not in there. How was that reporter held accountable? Was his pay docked? Was he given a stern talking to by his elders on the editorial board? How was his editor held accountable for missing the error?

Finally, the writer finishes with this: Journalism is essential for the survival of democratic representation. I disagree. An informed electorate is essential for the survival of the Republic. There are many ways to get there from here, and journalism is but one.

Is for-profit reporting, in a way designed to maximize the value of Gannett shares, essential for the survival of democratic representation? Hardly.


david said...

Amazing. Journalists need to get over themselves and their profession and instead just DO IT. If a few bloggers in our community can provide the coverage that you and Firefly have (coal plant, Harris), then the journalists should have NO excuse for not doing their jobs.

a-fire-fly said...

My opinion on his statement about "Baseless opinions as fact with no accountability" -most of the bloggers who write with "journalistic intent" actually document (and link to) their sources better than local media. Tribune Staff reporters write a story and it is expected to be factual and correct. I write a story and expect my writing to be questioned to the point where it is veiwed as opinion, even though "fact" is usually well documented.
As to the accountability, anyone who reads a blog can immediately dispute and disprove a story with much more ease than one can dispute a story printed by the Tribune. All it takes is doing it.