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Friday, January 27, 2006

Your bloggers at work

We're going to have a reasonable discussion.
But we're prepared for it to be unreasonable

This is from National Journal

BLOGS VS. THE MSM: Howell's Moving Castle

Last p.m. we had the unique experience of attending an Nat'l Press Club luncheon and discussion hosted by Alex S. Jones , dir. of the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Gov't at Harvard. Also in attendance were bloggers representing Power Line, AMERICAblog, RedState, MyDD, and others. So too were a number of MSM journalists-turned-bloggers, Beltway media critics and 2 of the minds behind CBS's Public Eye blog. Jones called the group together as part of a new initiative at the school called the Carnegie-Knight Task Force, which plans to issue a series of reports in the interest of strengthening journalism. This discussion group, entitled "A Discussion of Blogging and News Values," was the first of many to be hosted by the task force.

To summarize both sides' point of view, the bloggers in attendance implored the press to "do your job" while the establishment journalists argued that their mistakes did not warrant the harsh response. Both sides understood that evolving media technology has changed the reporting model irrevocably. If the dissolution of "the guild" -- i.e., who gets to be a "journalist" -- doesn't do it alone, the drift of advertising revenue away from newspapers will take care of the rest.

As you might expect from a room full of bloggers and MSM types, things got heated and voices were raised. But what we didn't expect was a surprise guest -- Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell. Howell has been at the focus of an ongoing controversy over corrections and comment standards at the Post, and much of the discussion focused on these controversies. Howell was there to give her side of the story, as well as get some feedback in a (somewhat) controlled environment.

First of all, Howell agreed that she had made a grievous error in describing disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's political donations: "I made a mistake ... and I am heartsick about it." That aside, she also conceded that she had made a mistake by waiting several days to post a correction, noting the practice of running news corrections on Page 2 but running column corrections only in the column. This is a typical arrangement at most newspapers. New York Times public editor Byron Calame has also dealt with the columnist-correction discrepancy in recent months (see 9/19 Blogometer). Howell indicated that she was interested in creating a standard place for all corrections at the Post.

As we mentioned earlier, not everything went smoothly. When MyDD contributor Matt Stoller was given the microphone, he forcefully stated to Howell: "The antagonism here is coming from you guys." Seemingly frustrated by the Post's handwringing over the comments, he shouted: "Nothing happened to you!" At this point Jones asked Stoller whether words could do violence, and Stoller stepped back and changed course.

At one point, Howell said that when she was brought on, the Post had asked her if she would write a blog. She told them at the time, let's see how it goes. Lest these last few weeks' experience turn her off the idea for good, Howell said she was still considering it. She asked the room -- "Should I write a blog?" The bloggers -- including John Aravosis, one of her chief critics -- encouraged her to do so.

Also worth noting: Some present were a bit surprised to hear bloggers Aravosis and Kevin Aylward from Wizbang freely admit the fact that they too delete comments from their boards. Of course, their standards are looser than the Post, which dictates that swearing is expected and substantive attacks are encouraged, but no slander, no copyright violation, and "in general" no personal attacks. Aravosis also volunteered that this last rule wasn't followed strictly, and definitely wasn't followed during the Howell controversy, and for that he also volunteered an apology. When we get a copy of that Carnegie-Knight report, we'll be sure to share more.

Blogging isn't all posts and dinners.:)

Look, let's understand something: we are not alone. I represent your voice, you represent the readers who don't post, and they represent people who are interested in the ideas here.

It doesn't seem like a lot of people, but it is.

People used to say all bloggers did was opine. Well, now, we're challenging the system, one post at a time and with your help.

We are not alone.

posted by Steve @ 5:14:00 PM

5:14:00 PM

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