Friday, March 31, 2006

Dear "Globe and Mail": I dare you. A challenge to my readers.

[UPDATE, Sat, Apr. 1: So far, not a peep out of the Globe regarding Smith's asinine column. I'm guessing this is the beginning of a really depressing trend at the Globe -- say stupid things about bloggers without giving them a chance to read and respond. I'm shocked. Well, no, no I'm not. Anyone who would publish Mark Steyn has clearly chosen their intellectual level.]

[UH OH: I just got a reply to my email to the Globe, stating that it was rejected due to delivery failure. Has anyone else seen this?]

[UPDATE: According to this page, you can reach Gorham here, so I'm going to give it another shot.]

Just now, I expanded on my snotty remarks directed at Globe And Mail media person and frustrated wannabe journalist Russell Smith here, and it occurred to me that there was one point I wanted to follow up on.

I find it particularly galling that someone would take the time to write an entire article slagging bloggers, and then not make that article available online so that bloggers could respond. That strikes me as cowardice of the lowest form so here's what I'm proposing.

I suggest we all send a short note to the Review Editor, Andrew Gorham, and ask him to make Smith's article freely available online, along with a completely unmoderated comments section so we can all give Russ the benefit of our collective wisdom and experience in Blogland.

If Russ wants this to be a useful experience, then when he attacks an entire demographic, he should be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of return fire. So that's the challenge to my readers -- take a minute to send Gorham a note about this. And be polite. There's no need to refer to Smith as a cowardly little weasel or anything like that.

Wait for the comments section to open first.

OK, I'VE DONE MY JOB: My request is now in Gorham's mailbox. Now it's your turn.

OH, THE IRONY. Perhaps the funniest thing about Smith's entire piece is this bit, which I will graciously reproduce for you 'cuz that's just the kind of dude I am:

A recently published study by the U.S. Project for Excellence in Journalism, The State of the News Media 2006, commented on this. The report analyzed seven political opinion blogs in the United States for one 24-hour period to determine how they compared to the mainstream media in various areas. The study looked particularly at how much blogs added to the news that was factual. And guess what they found? Not much. "Very little of what a journalist would call actual reporting was evident."

It goes on but ... what's missing here? Why, a link to the study! Gosh, what if we wanted to follow up on that study to see how seriously we should take it? Which blogs? And what exactly did they have to say? But, darn it, Smith omits the URL that would allow us to make up our own minds. In fact, in Smith's piece, there is not a single online link to anything, despite his writing:

The report also noted that any conventional sense of sourcing was missing from many discussions. "Bloggers link to others but tell readers very little about who those fellow bloggers are, their backgrounds or what if any expertise, relationship or bias they may have on the subject at hand..."

No fucking shit, eh, Russ? Kind of like basing a large part of an article on a "study" without giving readers a link to it. Sort of like that, Russ?

Somehow, the word "wanker" just doesn't suffice here, does it?


Alison said...

Dear Mr Gorham
I read with interest Mr. Russell Smith's excellent piece re the egregious new phenomenon of "blogs".
I would dearly like to see this article made available online with an open comments section so that those of us who consider ourselves to be champions of true investigative journalism may have the opportunity to respond to it.
Thank you.


Dave said...

Dear Mr Gorham,

I was tanatalized by Russell Smith's article in which he demonstrates the reason "blogs" are causing a decline in the public discourse. It has caused some interesting conversation.

Unfortunately, only Globe and Mail subscribers are able to read the entire article due to it being placed behind a firewall.

Given the nature of the topic, I would be truly appreciative if you could make the article available online with a comments section to allow a full discussion of Smith's column.
Best Regards.

Thar she goes!

Noel M said...

A couple of interesting quotes from the study...

"What we found, generally, is that readers of those blogs learned of some of the same stories that were in the traditional media that day, but often from a different angle or different source. They also heard about many items not found in the other media..."


"...In this regard, the bloggers are adding not just opinion to the media mix, but also new items to the agenda."

When you read the study, you can see why he wouldn't want people to read it for themselves.

Shoddy journalism.

Scott F said...

Oddly, I had been thinking about much of the content of Mr. Smith's column before I read it. I consider him one of the Globe's better columnists, and am glad there's still wit an intelligence to be found without Heather Mallick. God, I miss her.

The truth is that 'blogs are often little more than an echo chamber for opinions. We come here to read opinions not becuase they challenge us or disagree with our own values, but to find justification and a similar voice. I don't mean CC specifically, but any progessive blogger.

The irony of the article, and the response here, are quite amusing. mr. Smith was critical not no much of 'blogs, but of a mainstream media rush to validate their own content by quoting and referencing 'blogs. But 'blogs, despite a vocal distain for the MM, generally quote or link to MM websites as justification and support for their own opinions.

Unfortunately, the Globe's policy is to only allow paid subsribers access editorials and opinions. How sad, and also ironic, that this columns is also lumped in with all the rest. It's a bad policy, and will undoubtedly be corrected without an admission of the idiotic thinking behind it.


I remember Ed Greenspoon's article on page two of a Saturday issue that was little more than an ad for their website. It was heaped with praise for all their wonderful new features, many of which were not new.

What was new was the charge for some of the best content: the cryptic, letters, editorials, and columns. I tried to sign up for the free two week trial, but was rebuffed when my redit card number was required. Free, in my opinion, means I don't pay money and don't have to give a credit card number. I'm silly like that.

Lexington said...

"The report also noted that any conventional sense of sourcing was missing from many discussions. "Bloggers link to others but tell readers very little about who those fellow bloggers are, their backgrounds or what if any expertise, relationship or bias they may have on the subject at hand..."

And this is totally different from how the MSM operates is it?

What utter BS.

Journalists in the MSM routinely solicit commentary from think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute without disclosing the fact that these organizations are using the media to forward their own agendas, unless you believe adding the words "right wing" before the organization's name constitutes full disclosure.

Journalists generally do a very poor job of evaluating a potential source's expertise, background or potential for bias because their professional training actually predisposes them to defer to the opinion of "experts" without giving them the tools to distinguish the bonified expert from the hack -or from the think tank talking head pushing their own agenda, for that matter. In fact it is exactly this predilection that think tanks are designed to exploit.

Journalists get a head full of communications theory in school but little training in critical thinking and very little real expetise in the topics they are supposed to be covering. At one time this was actually thought of as a means of promoting journalistic objectivity since the reporter would assume a passive role in acting as a bridge between the "experts" and a mass audience.

The problem of course is that most journalists possess such a shallow working knowledge of academic subjects that they are easily overawed by anyone with a fancy title, an affiliation to a well known school or think tank, or a book credit on their resume. You need only recall how enthiastically journalists in the financial press jumped on the dot com bandwagon, writing hagiographic pieces about CEOs who turned out be scam artists and "stock analysts" who garned millions in bonuses pushing and E-toys, to realize how far from reality the Project for Excellence in Journalism's fantasy of reporters who know a real expert from a fake one, who can spot bias and evaluate backgrounds really is.

In fact, on average I would say the better blogs do a much better job of these things than the vast bulk of scribes working in the MSM.