Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bloggers Massing Against Ohio Dot Com

It started with one offhand remark about the clunky-but-familiar title of the new left-wing "community" blog on the Akron Beacon's website. I expected Matt Hurley at Weapons of Mass Discussion might have something to say about the Blog of Mass Destruction. But things have escalated and we have us a blogstorm.

As expected, Matt wrote up a post mocking the blog title, as did RAB and NixGuy. Bill Sloat picked it up and not only reamed, but wrote a second post releasing the "secret memo" listing the titles of other forthcoming MSM blogs. That one's pretty funny; take it from Phlo's Norka Rages.

Among other things, the ire directed at the Beacon Journal the dangers of the community journalism model the ABJ is following. Above you have five fairly sophisticated consumers of news -- OK, four sophisticated consumers, plus Naugle -- all of whom lay this at the feet of the Beacon, disclaimer be damned.

And that problem will continue to afflict If you click through to see the blogger profiles, you get the disclaimer. If you just look at the front page, you see the logo in the blog masthead. The Beacon is going to take flak for every goofy argument or arguable idea theft these guys post, no matter how many times the paper says they don't control the content of the blogs. Fact is, when they give these blogs the imprimatur of a respected newspaper, they have to accept some responsibility for what goes on there.

And trust me, this is just the beginning. They tapped as bloggers a reckless bomb-thrower and a guy largely innocent of the rules of punctuation. Neither is good for maintaining journalistic credibility.

I do want to say that I believe that the Beacon had nothing to do with the name choice. I also believe that the Reverend didn't choose his blog name to mimic Hurley's. Instead, I think he blundered into this gig without any knowledge of the Ohio blogosphere. As I noted before, he has no Ohio blogs on his sidebar. The blogroll consists of:

Pretty much all the majors there, aside from HuffPo and Big Orange, which frankly are probably too "establishment" for The Reverend.

Not to say he's above blame. He should have done some basic research just about who is out there doing what. Had he done so, he would have seen Matt's WMD and hopefully come up with a better title.

And I have to say, he's not judicious about giving credit where it's due. As I alluded to before, you click through links in pieces like the small penis post thinking it's a media source and discover that Digby pretty much laid out the same argument in slightly different order.

Finally, I don't want to say that citizen journalism and mainstream journalism must always remain separate. I'm just not sure that giving the keys to citizen journalists is the way to go.

First off, there is a knowledge base necessary for successful blogging. That may sound arrogant, but honestly it hadn't fully struck me before this incident. Most of us take the time to get up to speed, learn the terrain, write stupid posts that we now regret and, most importantly, form relationships with other bloggers. Most new blogs need time to hit stride. But ABJ put these guys in a fishbowl -- a fishbowl with stamped on it. Every mistake they make will be magnified.

More basic than that, fact is blogs and journalists operate differently. And we haven't even mentioned yet the community news page. As these things develop, people are going to violate tenets of journalism. They will post rumors, they will fail to attribute sources, they will post conversations that participants believed to be off the record, they will post information to serve their interests and fail to disclose the conflict. And all that will happen before the spam comes.

It seems to me that the Plain Dealer probably has the workings of a better model for MSM/blog interface. Openers and NEOBabble have long linked to blogs as a way of divining the zeitgeist. Now the PD has a new feature -- Blog 5. It's a list of five blog posts from the previous week that the PD staff feels are worth highlighting and, according to a comment on Jill's post, it will be a regular Monday feature. (And yes, I was one of the highlighted bloggers this week.)

The Plain Dealer has found a way to play off the blogosphere and add to it without trying to mimic citizen bloggers. They and their readers gain benefit from their coverage and the bloggers get exposure. It's a healthier relationship for both than trying to clone the worst excesses of blogging and run it under a MSM banner.


Chris Baker said...

Good catch. It's a really classless move.

Why old media wants to play at blogging without actually hiring anyone that actually has a clue about the craft is beyond me. It's almost as if there's a rule that they have to royally screw things up to start with.