Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Some second thoughts on MSM editors

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:13 AM |  

The blogosphere, myself included, has given the MSM a lot of heat for it's claim that the media is more reliable than blogs because of its phalanx of editors fact-checking for accuracy. As numerous bloggers have pointed out, editors are no guarantee of accuracy. I’d argue that reducing editors to mere fact-checkers diminishes their value. It's ironic and perhaps revealing, that MSM apologists see no more value in editors that simple fact-checking.

My Pioneer Press column today is about my investigation into comments Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson made to a group of pastors at a January meeting in New London. In response to a question, Johnson directly stated that he talked to all the members of the state Supreme Court and obtained some assurance that they would not overturn Minnesota’s existing marriage statute defining marriages as between one man and one woman.

When Johnson initially declined to comment, the column was written around the point that he should either defend or recant his statement. I turned it in on Monday. Late Monday, I received a statement from Johnson. Rather than bury the statement as too little too late, I reworked the column.

Much credit goes to new Pioneer Press Opinion Page Editor Mike Burbach, not because he fact-checked the article, any inaccuracies are my responsibility, but because throughout the process of writing and rewriting the column, he asked questions that helped shape the column, caused me to clarify points and write with, frankly, less bias while still maintaining my opinion that Johnson was, indeed, compromising the stature of the state Supreme Court to make a political point. Because of Mike’s help, the column is no more accurate, but it is definitely better than it would have been as a blog post.

A second pair of eyes on one’s work -- especially a professional set of eyes -- is not a bad thing. Nor is the humility to listen, consider, accept or reject (with a reason) what those eyes see. Limiting editors to fact-checkers ignores the major contribution they can make to the writing process.