Bloggers Are From Mars, MSM Is From Venus

I think I'm on the scent of one of the differences of worldview that makes it seem, sometimes, as if bloggers are from Mars and old-fashioned, legacy MSM-type reporters are from Venus.

Except that too often, as we'll see, the traditional journalists are from Mars too.

I can make my point only by quoting Jeff Jarvis, proprietor of the blog, Buzzmachine, new friend, occasional consigliere to Public Eye. In a posting today, Jarvis says:
"Anybody can get facts. Facts are the commodity."

This made my blood boil. Read the whole post to get the context for yourself. I doubt that Jarvis wanted these two sentences to get the deconstruction they are about to get; I think he was trying to make a narrow and legit point that sometimes nit-picking the details of story are a means of avoiding the deeper meaning and moral dimension of the story. But…

Facts are not a commodity.

Anybody cannot get the facts.

True facts are very hard to come by.

And anyone who doubts that truly has no respect for journalism and reporting.

However legitimate all the calls for greater honesty, transparency, openness, bias-self-revelation and humility are, they are essentially insincere unless they acknowledge and empathize with some basic realities about journalism -- its limits, challenges and basic standards.

Why can't anybody get the facts? Because lots of times people -- sources, officials, real people -- lie to you. Sometimes they shoot at you. Getting the facts about what's going on in, say, a 200-square-mile part of southern Louisiana that's flooded is very difficult. Getting the facts in a murder case is difficult. You get the idea.

Good reporting of true facts is not something to denigrate. Some of the best service the blogosphere has performed is simple fact-checking or fixing -- and bloggers are rightly not shy in pointing that out. But they are -- can be -- miserly in according respect to the old-fashioned geezers who "just don't get it" and continue produce the commodity of facts. Without those facts there wouldn't be much to blog about.

The MSM may be equally guilty for showcasing debate, sound-bite food fights and on-demand editorializing. But really, that happens mostly on a slice of cable television, talk radio and op-ed sections. Most of the press is spending most of its time trying to get facts.

And the notion that such facts can be mass produced with perfect quality control as a freely distributed commodity for Jeff Jarvis and Dick Meyer to bloviate about is a corrosive myth.

So that's the view from Venus. Martians, chime in.
  • Dick Meyer

Comments