Monday, November 28, 2005

Sources are for suckers

Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of US News and World Report, uses his proprietorial spot in the magazine to discussing this new fangled blogging thingy:

Given the fact that the disseminators of blogs, such as Google, have a unique protection from legal liability for what is posted, the blogs often resort to blood sport in their commentaries on politics and life, with many repeating and reporting without fact checking. (Alas, the idea that Jews plotted the 9/11 attacks began as a blog and took hold in the Muslim world as fact; in fact, it was a lie put out by Hezbollah.)

This new age of journalism is challenging the "trustee model" of journalism, where journalistic professionals served as gatekeepers, filtering the defamatory and the false. Today, a large segment of the public believes the new media are flavoring their reporting so as to tell us not so much how the world works but how the media believe it ought to work. No wonder only 44 percent of the public now say they are very, or fairly, confident of the media's accuracy.

Our quick count shows those two paragraphs containing 4 specific assertions and four sweeping generalizations, the latter protected only by their vagueness from being substantiated. And it's not like the claims are even internally consistent -- did the 9/11 claim come from Hezbollah, or a blog, or maybe from And what is this "unique legal protection" that Google has? Or indeed this golden age of trustee journalism, where the gatekeepers protected us from falsehoods like Al Gore having claimed he invented the Internet? Indeed, in terms of political speech, bloggers are having to fight to get the same rights that other media already have in terms of election campaign regulations.

In sum, we have a non-fact checked, unsourced tirade about bloggers from one of the pillars of dinner-party centrism. Stick to firing employees on maternity leave, Mort. It's what you do best.

UPDATE: Inward links (and much associated traffic) with additional thoughts from Atrios and Kos. And Zuckerman's own sloppy record on fact-checking is discussed by Wampum.

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