Watching the Watchers

For a guy who usually paints himself as an old fuddy-duddy, John Leo certainly understands what blogging is about. Weighing in on the Eason Jordan affair, Leo writes:


Why some in mainstream media keep depicting bloggers as inaccurate is a mystery. In the blogs I follow, accuracy is crucially important, and errors have to be admitted quickly, usually on the day of the mistake. Glenn Reynolds of suggests that mainstream media might want to hire some bloggers to check their stories before publication. This is a cheeky but polite reminder that bloggers are in the checking business, and big media should get used to someone looking over their shoulder.

Hiring bloggers to vet stories is a delightfully cheeky suggestion, but not a very workable one. No single blogger is going to be less biased or be any less prone to error than any single reporter – or even any single news story. Hiring an in-house blogger, or even a team of them, isn’t likely to do much good.

So how about a less cheeky (I am sometimes capable of that, you know) but more workable solution?

Blogs, as the MSM are belatedly discovering, already parse damn near every news story for inaccuracies, bias, outright untruths, etc. If the story is big enough, then blogs can eventually force some kind of change. The change can be something as miniscule and ineffective as a Corrections notice on page A17, all the way up to a firing/forced resignation. The way things work now, news consumers (a definition not including reporters and bloggers) are left out of the loop. Most of the good stuff happens when they’re not looking, since only a small fraction of Americans read blogs. The first most people heard of the Jordan Affair was when it was over.


Glenn’s idea, at least as presented by Leo, isn’t much of an improvement. In-house bloggers would act as — what? An extra layer of editorial staff? Yet another ineffective ombudsman? Would-be reformers to be bought out and co-opted by the system? Look at most existing in-house MSM blogs, and tell me again why they’re a good idea.

With all that in mind, here at long last is my not-so-cheeky idea: Dedicate news space in either Section A or on the op-ed page (or both) to bloggers, and link to bloggers on the web.

Dallas News is already doing something like the first part, with an occasional “Best of the Blogs” op-ed feature. And their in-house blog is actually pretty good. For print editions, that’s a pretty good start.

E-editions of newspapers and magazines should throw some money Technorati‘s way, and come up with some simple RSS or HTML code to include at the bottom of every story or article. The code would provide links, in real time, to what bloggers are saying about what the paper has published. The Technorati Solution is editor-free



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