Truth squads

Truth squads
: Jay Rosen does an admirable job tracking a blog meme from those who want to “adopt” a journalist and track everything he or she says.

Dan Gillmor then writes a superb reply, saying that we do need fact-checking, but we don’t need “truth squads” fired by antagonism. Go read him. He also posts his reply in Jay’s comments.

I also replied in Jay’s comments and here’s what I said:

I heartily second Dan Gillmor.

What we’ll end up with is dueling truth squads. I know, for I’ve been witnessing that in the comments on my blog as self-appointed holders of the liberal flame claim I shouldn’t use that label. It devolved into utter silliness with one blogger searching my words for the words “safety net” and because he couldn’t find them he decreed that I couldn’t possibly be liberal. To which I (childishly but gleefully) replied: “Safety net. Safety net. Safety net.”

Here’s what’s wrong with this idea: It builds back up the journalistic cult of personality that the Web and weblogs tear down.

Don’t make the writers the issue.

Make the issues the issue.

By creating single-man defense on reporters, you’re only extending the lie that it matters who reads the news (from the media) or that a reporter starts the day repeating a secret agenda (from the anti-media) — both shallow, naive, and ultimately wrong and unproductive notions.

I agree with Dan that fact-checking the ass of me, him and every other journalist is a great thing and is one of the great benefits of this citizens’ media. But it should be done on merit (or demerit): When you know something or find out something that somebody in the press got wrong, shout it from the mountaintop and people will listen. When, instead, you keep harping that you can’t stand Dowd or Krugman or Dan or me, well, you’re only further spreading the Internet’s ill-deserved reputation for personal attack and innuendo.

We say to establishment journalists the same thing we say to citizen journalists: Get it right and when you don’t, well then get it right.