Chris Matthews seems to think that bloggers don’t do any fact checking, and that we’re going to lose that if the newspaper industry goes out of business. While it’s true that beat reporters and those doing the footwork out there are sorely needed, to say that bloggers don’t fact check is just a cheap shot at the on line community that he and his ilk have such disdain for, probably because we’re the main ones fact checking the likes of him.
What Matthews fails to note here is why the industry is in such bad shape. The Economist lays out some of the problems in their article Who Killed the Newspaper.
Nobody should relish the demise of once-great titles. But the decline of newspapers will not be as harmful to society as some fear. Democracy, remember, has already survived the huge television-led decline in circulation since the 1950s. It has survived as readers have shunned papers and papers have shunned what was in stuffier times thought of as serious news. And it will surely survive the decline to come.
That is partly because a few titles that invest in the kind of investigative stories which often benefit society the most are in a good position to survive, as long as their owners do a competent job of adjusting to changing circumstances. Publications like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal should be able to put up the price of their journalism to compensate for advertising revenues lost to the internet—especially as they cater to a more global readership. As with many industries, it is those in the middle—neither highbrow, nor entertainingly populist—that are likeliest to fall by the wayside.
The usefulness of the press goes much wider than investigating abuses or even spreading general news; it lies in holding governments to account—trying them in the court of public opinion. The internet has expanded this court. Anyone looking for information has never been better equipped. People no longer have to trust a handful of national papers or, worse, their local city paper. News-aggregation sites such as Google News draw together sources from around the world. The website of Britain's Guardian now has nearly half as many readers in America as it does at home.
In addition, a new force of “citizen” journalists and bloggers is itching to hold politicians to account. The web has opened the closed world of professional editors and reporters to anyone with a keyboard and an internet connection. Several companies have been chastened by amateur postings—of flames erupting from Dell's laptops or of cable-TV repairmen asleep on the sofa. Each blogger is capable of bias and slander, but, taken as a group, bloggers offer the searcher after truth boundless material to chew over. Of course, the internet panders to closed minds; but so has much of the press.
Ironically we see Bob Woodward saying journalism lives on after playing stenographer for the Bush crowd to get some books sold rather than reporting on what he found out. And he holds up Tina Brown’s operation at The Daily Beast as a business model for making money on line and some hope for journalism's future.
Just how different would this conversation have been with a completely different panel? The viewers might have learned something had it been our own Dave Neiwert and Susie Madrak who’ve worked in the newspaper industry and turned to blogging instead, and Josh Marshall from Talking Points Memo and Eric Boehlert from Media Matters, who’s sites look more like the future of journalism to me.
When the fourth estate doesn't do its job, people are going to turn to other sources that will. Something that seems to completely elude Chris Matthews and his panel here.
Another thing Matthews fails to note is that most bloggers who use other people’s reporting link back to that material and allow their readers to evaluate their assertions for themselves. We are not just taking stenography from press releases or other people’s reporting. And when we get something wrong, there’s generally a swift retraction. Something you cannot say for too many in our “mainstream media” who tend to circle the wagons rather than admit mistakes. And while Joe Klein is claiming that his commenters “fact check” him, just how many of those comments does he actually read?
Transcript below the fold.
Continue reading »