The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Friday, June 06, 2003
NEW MEDIA NOTES: Could bloggers compete with The New York Times? Well, Ira Stoll isn't doing a very good job of it.

Think about that. When Stoll ran a little website called
smartertimes.com, he was a sometimes useful corrective to the Gray Lady. Now he runs a daily paper called The New York Sun. I'm sure it pays better, but it has neither readers nor content worth reading. If blogs are part of a media revolution -- and yeah, I think they are -- it's not because the people who write them could beat the Times at reporting, editing, or even opining. Some probably could. But most definitely can't.

In fact, blogger triumphalism aside, I'm not sure most of us could even fact-check better than the Times. I mean, it's not like we caught Jayson Blair. It's nice that the warblogging crowd has pointed out so many errors in the BBC's report on the rescue of Jessica Lynch. Good work, folks. But I get the impression that a lot of you are less interested in setting the record straight than in changing the subject: There were plenty of reports debunking the official story of the Lynch rescue before the British Broadcasting Corporation weighed in, and none of them included the BBC's nonsense about soldiers firing blanks. Yet those blanks are all you seem to be talking about. Why spend so much time taking the BBC to task and almost none probing the folks who might have gotten the first version of the story wrong, too? Could it be because one dubious report challenges your prejudices, while the other one confirms them?

Bloggers are at least as fallible as the Times or the BBC, usually more so. It's just that we dwell in this big electronic soup, where everyone's axes grind up against everyone else's and all those fallibilities cancel each other out. On an individual level, we've all got our heads up our asses, just like the unlamented Howell Raines. It's just that there's so many of us, and our asses come in such different shapes and sizes. It's so much more obvious when we're adjusting the facts to fit our faiths; and somehow, maybe, that makes it more obvious when the Big Media guys do it as well. Screw the emperor -- none of us are wearing any clothes.


posted by Jesse 12:30 PM
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