Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Hang in there, Brady

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:20 AM |  

Call me a sentimental old fool charmed by a young, pretty and intellectually curious intern (or simply a dirty old man), but I’ll cut Brady Averill a little slack on yesterday’s Pioneer Press article on bloggers and the 2006 elections.

Brian “Saint Paul” Ward of Fraters Libertas, as usual (and especially when he writes nice things about me), does an entertaining and precision slicing of the article that cuts right to the apt criticisms. Mitch Berg at Shot in the Dark takes a more strident and partisan critical path, but arrives at the same interpretation -- the article essentially reiterated the same old media talking points about blogs.

As Mitch notes, “And did you think we could get through an article about blogs without the traditional grump about "no editors?" Of course not, and that’s the irony -- it was probably a mainstream media editor that ruined what could have been a good article.

I was interviewed by Brady back when Dante Culpepper was still the Vikings’ quarterback and the only buttocks he was fondling belonged to Cory Withrow and Melvin Fowler. That leaves a long time for an article to fulminate, especially for young reporter, actually an intern, fresh from the Minnesota Daily. She came to the story with pretty much zero knowledge of the blogging scene -- no context of who’s who, a point well made by Gary Miller at Kennedy vs. The Machine.

We talked over coffee for about a hour -- about 20 minutes of interview and the balance a little pontification by the captain on journalistic objectivity. And an “objective” media story is exactly what the Pioneer Press ran. But I don’t blame Brady -- seldom do I blame any reporter for a lousy story.

The mainstream media touts its priest-like editors as what separates them from the uncircumcised Philistines of the blogosphere. When they are good, they are very, very good, but when they are bad, they are horrid. In this case, run with horrid -- some editor insisting on journalism where style as defined by non-committed “objectivity” takes precedent over substance -- a judgment by a competent observer -- probably deserves blame for ruining the story.

My warning to Brady was that “objectivity” as demanded by the mainstream media dictates a “he said/she said” kind of reporting where not only are both sides of story presented, but they must be given equal weight. Having been on the other side of the note pad in a few situations now, I find that original ideas aren’t likely to be included in articles; my speculation is this is so because there is no counter point to balance an original thought.

The best blogs, on the other hand, speak in conceptual arguments -- logical arguments supported by evidence that confirms the writer's point of view. The best blogs are not concerned with media-like “objectivity,” but with objectively examining a situation (all sides) intent on arriving at a conclusion supported by what is seen and consequently reported. In the end, that approach better serves the reader.

Unfortunately, the blog story did not serve Pioneer Press readers. As Gary and Mitch note, it did not even provide the best sources to check out that readers might form their own opinions. The whole notion that blogs and the mainstream media depend on each other for information and exposure (and gasp, the MSM might benefit from incorporating blogging), a major part of my discussion with Brady, was sacrificed to “he said/she said” point counter point journalism. The “if” question was explored to the exclusion of the “how” question, the more interesting of the two.

Bad article, yes. More sadly, a missed opportunity to inform.

On the plus side, I enjoyed coffee with Brady.

(No prize for the first comment that begins "Not so fast, Westover.")