Sunday, May 15, 2005

Learning the lesson the hard way

Much has been made of the entire Isikoff Newsweek story. If you happen to have been living an austere Ossama Bin Laden cave dwelling with no high speed Internet access lifestyle for the last week you can catch up here and here.

About 9 months ago, I wrote a post on the blogosphere as it relates to credibility and sourcing. The analogy and point I made is this:

In the Tour De France (and other professional cycling events) there is something akin to Roving Justice. If someone makes a failed breakout move from the peloton (the pack where everyone else is), and they are caught by the field, they are basically moved to the back of the pack. Other cyclists won't let the rider get back into place and the cyclist will be pushed to the rear. The unspoken rule is not to mess with the group if you aren't good enough to pull it off.

But the blogosphere can be vicious when it comes to those who try to play fast and loose with the truth. Fact checking and sourcing is mandatory to survive in blog punditry. With so many blogs out there looking to make a name for themselves, unsourced stories are pounced upon and those found lacking are as well pushed to the back?

Blogging is truly revolutionary as a media concept these days in the simple fact that it regulates itself with ruthless efficiency.

Many of the consumers of these blogs are also competitors, which is something we don't see with mainstream media. Add into the mix the fact that there is no subscription fees to read blogs, brand loyalty can only be maintained by providing a superior (and accurate) product.

While the MSM has continued to mock bloggers as pajama wearing hacks with no editorial control, we have seen what can happen to MSM when it succumbs to the lack of editorial control that it claims moral authority over.

In reading the various posts in the blogosphere, I have seen a variety of reactions. Some people have thought of a Newsweek book burning exercise. Others are saying that the blood of those killed is on their hands. Never to be outdone, the Kos Kids are siding with the extremists and think that the Newsweek admittance is just a conservative witch hunt against the truth.

What do I think should happen? Nothing. Nothing will bring the dead people back. And nothing less than a front page cover story of a retraction and than explanation as to why the Editorial Board failed so miserably in their jobs to confirm this story will do anything to help Newsweek's credibility. But as I said in my analogy above, those who play fast and loose with the rules will be pounced upon viciously. A once somewhat respected periodical will be reduced to nothing more than a Supermarket tabloid.

In the days before blogs, there was no need for MSM to check itself. And there was even less reason for the competitors in the industry to try to and sniff out false stories. After all if they were all trying to discredit each other, it would lead to what would more or less be a price war where nobody wins. But blogs have changed that. There is now that independent (and widely read) observer to what MSM is and has been doing.

At some point, parts of the MSM will start to really understand blogs and the power that is the Internet (with much thanks to Google). And until they really catch on, I think we will see more of these self-important journalists pushed to the back of the peloton.

(Kos Link via LGF)

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