Monday, March 23, 2009

On Publishing Crap

From Crooked Timber:

The absolute refusal of the Post to take a position on the truth or falsity of what it publishes (along with the continued scandal of anonymous sourcing) leads me to a steadily more negative view of the question of whether we actually need newspapers and whether we should regret their seemingly inexorable decline. The standard claim is that without reporters, we in the blogosphere would have no material to work on. But Will’s recycling of long-refuted Internet factoids (something very common among rightwing pundits in particular) shows that, in important respects, the opposite is true.

More importantly as far as political and business news goes, there is almost always someone with an interest in having any given story published. If newspapers are unwilling to take a stand on which stories are true or false, their only function is that of gatekeeper – determining which stories see the light of day and which do not. The potential for corruption in this role is clear, and the reality was obvious particularly in relation to the Iraq war.

In other words, what difference does it make if newspapers have the power to actually go find news, to determine truth or falsity, if all they plan to do with these powers is pump out the same old horseshit?

As an aside, I believe that a Ontario Press Council complaint was once filed against an Ottawa Citizen reporter for recycling some old denialist chest-nuts, though I haven't been able to find the relevant material at their site. In any case, if newspapers are not willing to correct factual errors in science pieces, then perhaps there is indeed no hope for them.


Ti-Guy said...

Speaking of global warming crap spewed by "journalists," let's note Lorne Gunter's correction this week on last week's column.

I mean, who cares anyway? You can't even be sure anymore if their corrections are even credible. In any case, I seriously doubt the people who formed a faulty understanding of reality based on Gunter's previous column will change their minds this week based on the correction. It just doesn't work that way.

In any case, we shouldn't bother going after the bad journalists anymore as much as we should the good ones since they're a bigger problem. The near-total unwillingness on their part to critique the work of their colleagues reveals an absence of professionalism that no one else, with the exception of lawyers, can get away with. Or indeed would want to, since genuine professionals understand criticism as vital to the process of improvement.

bigcitylib said...

Interesting Gunter would bother issuing a correction on this one. He's let much worse go by.

I bet there's some blowback from the original Will piece, as the confusion between total ice-extent and rate of recovery that was one of the claims made there as well.

Ti-Guy said...

I wouldn't know. I hardly pay attention to anyone associated with mainstream journalism anymore.

A great podcast, by the way is NPR's On the Media. I don't know why the fuck the CBC doesn't produce something like that.

Chrystal Ocean said...

People in the biz who are defending the news and opinion industry, including journalists I respect, seem not to question their assumption that journalism can only exist if it's fused to the corporate industry. There ARE other options out there, as evidenced by the growth of volunteer-run grassroots, non-profits which get their support from public donations. Moreover, IF the accessibility of news is a public right, then why not treat it that way?