: There’s pathetic denial going on in certain circles over the Hutton verdict. The Independent (surprise!) says, “Hutton is accused of a ‘whitewash.’” Tee-hee.
Posts from January 2004
Blogging the blog king
: I’m at Columbia now, awaiting a Nick Denton talk with Oliver Ryan. Nick’s not happy that I parked myself by the electric socket. “You’re not going to blog this, are you?” Live by the snark, die by the snark…
Nick tells the journalism students that he doesn’t look for journalists to write his blogs. He likes to get people when they haven’t been destroyed by working in a big paper….
Student asks how Nick squares his view that daily American papers are boring with his admission that blogs are parasitic on big media, linking to the content they create. Nick says, “Why do I have to square it.” That is what a Nick conversation is like.
Student tries to get Nick up on a soap box. Nick replies, “We feel no public-service responsibility.”
Student: “If it’s so boring why are so many bloggers media addicts?” Nick: “They’re hypocritical.”
Nick punctures pomposity with aplomb….
A new political blog
: David Weinberger has started a new Corante blog: Loose Democracy. I’m way looking forward to reading this because Weinberger is one of the smartest and most candid yet humble people in this new world. In his first post, he rebuts Clay Shirky:
We do have a couple of indisputable facts: Dean came in a poor third in Iowa and a disappointing second in New Hampshire. But this by itself leads to no conclusions about whether social software hurt the campaign. For all we know, Dean would still be in single digits as an ex-governor of the Maple Sugar state if the online connection hadn’t happened. And we certainly don’t know that, if social software failed, it was because it lulled participants into a sense of “inevitability.” That’s just Clay’s speculation.
Blinded by the light
: Greg Dyke, BBC director-general, issues a defensive statement.
And Andrew Gilligan, the mope who started all this, does worse and the British journalists’ union does even worse. They should be chasing him out as the shame of the business but instead:
However, the National Union of Journalists, which represented Gilligan, today hit out at the report’s conclusions.
“Whatever Lord Hutton may think, it is clear from the evidence he heard that the dossier was ‘sexed up’, that many in the intelligence services were unhappy about it, and that Andrew Gilligan’s story was substantially correct,” said Jeremy Dear, the president of the NUJ, which is representing Gilligan.
Who owns the truth?
: This is not a good day for big, old, traditional news media. It is, however, a good day for the truth.
The BBC accused the Blair government of lying about war when, in fact, the BBC lied about Blair. Now Lord Hutton has handed the Beeb its privates on a platter and we wait to see whether the blind, pompous, and self-righteous heads of BBC News — Gavyn Davies, Greg Dyke, and Richard Sambrook — plus the alleged reporter who started all this, Andrew Gilligan, first repudiate the lies, second apologize for lying, and third quit in shame. See many posts on this below.
And in New Hampshire, the big old media guys were proven way wrong today when the voters did what they said for months the voters wouldn’t do: vote for somebody other than Howard Dean. See John Podhoretz, below.
So the press didn’t give us the facts because, in one case, they lied and, in another case, they were just wrong.
The real mistake — the real sin of hubris here — comes when the press acts as if it owns the truth.
Nobody does. Many people try — some more honestly, earnestly, and reliably then others — to find the truth. Some people, like Andrew Gilligan and Jayson Blair, try not to.
But in the end, the truth is a high standard, hard to reach, and an honest soul will admit to failing to reach it, or least to the need to keep trying.
This is what I mean when I say (too much, I confess) that news is a conversation. It’s not as if, once the oracle who owns the press or the broadcast tower speaks, we have heard the truth and can stop the search for it. Of course, we can’t. It takes time and openness and curiosity and effort and a great deal of back and forth with contributions from many diverse sources and viewpoints adding onto each other to perhaps pile up to the truth.
Yes, the web and weblogs, with their ability to reach out to unlimited sources and viewpoints, can help with that process. They are no more the truth’s sole salvation that big media was. But they can more loudly announce when big media fails.
The mistake, again, is acting as if you own the truth, for when you fail, the fall is a long one. The BBC acted as if it — not its government and not American media, either — owned the truth. And now it is in free-fall.
All of this is simply to say that in this new media world of instant updates with the ability to change and correct news at any time and with many viewpoints and the ability to link to them anywhere, it’s more important than ever for the media to be transparent and open and to recognize that the news is a two-way street and the truth is a process.
So rather than ending newscasts saying, “That’s the way it is,” perhaps the best thing to do is to open newscasts saying, “We don’t know but we think…”
The vindication of Tony Blair
: I just heard Tony Blair’s speech to Parliament on the Hutton report. Brilliant: to the point, direct, demanding. He calls on those who lied about him to recant. We’re waiting.
The statement is here.
In conclusion I repeat what Lord Hutton said in his Summary, at page 322.
“The communication by the media of information (including information obtained by investigative reporters) on matters of public interest and importance is a vital part of life in a democratic society. However the right to communicate such information is subject to the qualification (which itself exists for the benefit of a democratic society) that false accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others, including politicians, should not be made by the media.”
That is how this began: with an accusation that was false then and is false now.
We can have the debate about the war; about WMD; about intelligence. But we do not need to conduct it by accusations of lies and deceit. We can respect each other’s motives and integrity even when in disagreement.
Let me repeat the words of Lord Hutton:
“False accusations of fact impugning the integrity of others … should not be made”.
Let those that made them now withdraw them.