Annals of Reporting
For a variety of reasons I try to stay out of the debates over blogs as such, what they're good or bad at and the rest. But this morning I was alerted to an opinion column in the Los Angeles Times by Michael Skube, a journalism professor at Elon University. The sum of the piece is that the blogosphere is as rife with disputation as it is thin on information, or more specifically, reporting, writing that demands "time, thorough fact-checking and verification and, most of all, perseverance."
Now, fair enough. There's certainly no end of blog pontificating fueled by puffed-up self-assertion rather than facts. But Skube's piece reads with a vagueness that suggests he has less than a passing familiarity with the topic at issue. And I will confess to you that what really caught my attention was that in a column bewailing how blogs don't do any real reporting one of the four bloggers he mentioned was me.
Now, whether we do any quality reporting at TPM is a matter of opinion. And everyone is entitled to theirs. So against my better judgment, I sent Skube an email telling him that I found it hard to believe he was very familiar with TPM if he was including us as examples in a column about the dearth of original reporting in the blogosphere.
Now, I get criticized plenty. And that's fair since I do plenty of criticizing. And I wouldn't raise any of this here if it weren't for what came up in Skube's response.
Not long after I wrote I got a reply: "I didn't put your name into the piece and haven't spent any time on your site. So to that extent I'm happy to give you benefit of the doubt ..."
This seemed more than a little odd since, as I said, he certainly does use me as an example -- along with Sullivan, Matt Yglesias and Kos. So I followed up noting my surprise that he didn't seem to remember what he'd written in his own opinion column on the very day it appeared and that in any case it cut against his credibility somewhat that he wrote about sites he admits he'd never read.
To which I got this response: "I said I did not refer to you in the original. Your name was inserted late by an editor who perhaps thought I needed to cite more examples ... "
And this is from someone who teaches journalism?
Perhaps I'm naive. But it surprises me a great deal that a professor of journalism freely admits that he allows to appear under his own name claims about a publication he concedes he's never read.
Actually, if you look at what he says, it seems Skube's editor at the Times oped page didn't think he had enough specific examples in his article decrying our culture of free-wheeling assertion bereft of factual backing. Or perhaps any examples. So the editor came up with a few blogs to mention and Skube signed off. And Skube was happy to sign off on the addition even though he didn't know anything about them.
I grant you that the blogosphere needs better bloggers. But, as usual, the need for better critics seems even more acute.
Monday, August 20, 2007
The State of Newspaper Research
John Marshall details how he was singled out by the LA Times as someone who doesn't do his research:
Posted by Humbug at 9:28 AM