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January 23, 2005
To trust or not to trust
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The last post about Jeff Jarvis’s blogging the Harvard conference on journalism credibility elicited a comment from a veteran journalist and a recent fellow-blogger, David Tebbutt. Among other things he mentions the need of his readers for someone they can trust to do the research for them....

They need to find someone they trust to do the research for them. I spend a goodly chunk of each month researching for my articles and columns. I even get paid a little bit for the privilege. As long as I am conscientious, and act in my readers’ best interests, I am saving each of them that amount of time. It’s a good deal whichever way you look at it.

My response was predictable…

It constantly puzzles me the assumption of journalists that somehow they have the monopoly on trust and credibility. I wonder where that comes from? Why should I trust what a journalist writes? Where does he get his crebility from? If from the paper he writes for, well, he goes with what the editor and proprietor want to say. If from his reputation and history of writing, then how is it different from a blogger? And how does he compare to a blogger whose credibility is created by linking to all the sources and giving his readers a chance to see for themselves, persitently and transparently.

Later on, I came across an article by David Berlind Can technology close journalism’s credibility gap? Crediblity gap! I mean, there is David Tebbutt asking about why one should trust a blogger whilst another journalist, David Berlind, is conducting experiments to find out if the very technology used by bloggers and podcasting can help to recover credibility for journalism… Don’t you just love internet? wink

Between these [Rathergate] and other big media gaffs, the public has grown increasingly disenchanted with the media establishment, and is turning to other sources of information such as independent bloggers. Blog publishing has given rise to several questions.  Among them, what’s the difference between a blogger and a journalist? Answer:  None.  Dan Gillmor was a journalist for the San Jose Mercury News.  Today, he’s a blogger for his own operation on Grassroots Journalism.  Now that he has parted ranks with the traditional media, should he also be stripped of his press credentials?  Would trading in their New York Times credentials for accounts be all it takes to disqualify columnists William Safire or Maureen Dowd as journalists?  The integrity of Gillmor, Safire, and Dowd have nothing to do with the frame their words appear in, the frequency with which they publish, the length of their musings, or the brand whose flag flies above their headlines.

His questions is:

What role can and should technology play in contributing to transparency--full disclosure--in the media? After all, given that it’s been such an enabler to the revolution in journalism, shouldn’t it also be a driving force in integrity as well?

By providing the uncensored, unedited raw data used to assemble a news story, opinion piece, or blog entry, the problems of misquoting, quote truncation, placing quotes out of order to arrive at an unintended meaning, quoting out of context, or manipulating interviews in the interests of a particular agenda could go away.

May he be right but just as a newspaper does not make a journalist, perhaps blogging and other technology does not make for a transparent reporting. What blogging does, however, is offers those who crave transparency an alternative to the one-way communication of old style journalism.

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