News by any other name

Times Public Editor Byron Calame can make anything dull… including blogs. He sniffs around the edges of the Times blogs today like a mangy dog unsure whether even he should eat that smelly lump of something on the grass. He finally decides that he likes Dealbook — and even wants similar blogs on health care and science (with no explanation why they are so bloggable). But then he turns around and sniffs that it’s really not up to his standards.

Despite the service that DealBook can provide to Times readers, it’s important to remember that a couple of journalistic standards are being bypassed. And I think because of this, readers should use the new blog with care.

He makes a blog sound like a piece of heavy machinery you shouldn’t be operating when on allergy medication.

While the banner of The New York Times flies at the top of each page of DealBook, much of the information there hasn’t been verified or confirmed by the staff. In my mind, this is a fundamental departure from the way the rest of the paper’s content — except for wire service stories — is authenticated before it is published.

Whoa, public man. What I’d like to see you outline now is exactly how The Times verifies and confirms everything it prints. I’m sure many of us can point to many things that could have used a little more verifying and confirming. That’s the case for any newspaper. But Calame still believes in the shining newspaper on the hill that gets the facts, ma’am.

One serious concern I have is the tendency of The Times to give DealBook the aura of news. A link on the DealBook site describes it as “a new online financial news report on featuring up-to-the-minute news and exclusives about Wall Street and corporate America.” And the home page links to this question-and-answer segment: “Is DealBook a blog? Not in the traditional sense. It is less opinion and more news and analysis.” Come on, it’s a blog.

What, so that means if it’s a blog it cannot be news? Oh, gag me with a stick of hot type.

  • I like the comment that the info ‘hasn’t been verified or confirmed’ – by Times staff. The same Times staff that admitted it had let w get by with making unsubstantiated claims about such things as purchase of yellow cake from Nigeria by Saddam, which never happened, without seeking to verify, confirm, or report that it was neither. Any guesses why blogs which are subjected to intense scrutiny by bloggers constantly, get so much respect, and newspapers are losing that very commodity.

  • Mr. Jarvis – well said, well said. A lot of your ideas are getting me thinking about another bastion of arrogance that isn’t experiencing problems like the MSM, academia. There are some excellent academic blogs on the tech world and what it means like, but at least in my experience, academics seem to be hostile to blogging, esp. as what goes on in blogging is probably far more productive (and less anchored to making money and getting prestige) than most journal articles (I need to prove that last assertion. I think working on ideas and being in discourse in real time, for much of academia, is key. This is not foolproof – more meditative study is required for other disciplines).

    I dunno, though. Your thoughts in helping me make/unmake this argument would be most useful.

  • miamidolphins

    Hey Mr. Jarvis
    Don’t be whinning any more. I’m quite sick and tired of your dangling after the Times while you position yourself as Evangelion for the blogosphere.
    Your Times-bashing shows nothing more than your desire to make your personal biz lucrative whether it is described as pundit or consuting or whatever!
    Your business and their business are starkly different. Please keep out of their business or admit what they are doing is more worthwhile than yours.

  • I reserve the right to find Calame boring.

  • joe

    “Come on, it’s a blog” He is way behind. Blogs rule!

  • Ravo

    The NYT has standards?

    From the above article: (April 3rd)

    “On the 18th of March, The Times was caught out with bogus story on Abu Ghraib.

    Then on the 23rd of March, The Times was caught out with a bogus story on Katrina.

    Next on the 29th of March, they were caught misleading their readers on the NSA wiretap program.

    Now today we learn the Times has been caught out with a fake story from Iraq.”

  • Concur. Back before the blogosphere it was easy to assume a given news outlet or journalist had credibility merely because sources were limited. But now I can find blogs full of fresh and insightful content, and usually determine the author’s credibility from their posted bio. So who do I trust now–the print or TV news celebrity with zero credentials besides a strong chin and good teeth, or the blogger with a strong resume? I’ll go with the resume.

    Do I smell only contempt from the establishment in the air, then, or is that the scent of their fear?

  • Dick Eagleson

    Calame, whatever his title, still works for a balloon factory and can’t hide the fact that he’s a die-hard balloonist at heart. When one of those spindly-looking heavier-than-air thingies goes put-putting by, he simply can’t disguise his visceral unease. He doesn’t really, down deep in his bones, think anything can actually fly if it doesn’t have a gasbag at the top.

    Oh, and Ruth? While defending the Times ain’t exactly my thing either, maybe they gave Dubya a “pass” because he never actually – you know – said any of that stuff. Ya think?

  • DE, you may not have listened to the State of the union speech in which w used the example of Saddam’s agents trying to purchase from Nigeria the elements for nuclear weapons, but I think it’s well enough established that he did.

  • Ruth,

    So? Being wrong about one thing does not make you wrong about every thing else. No one can be consistently wrong, sooner or later you are going to get something right. Focusing on WMDs was the wrong way to go about it, when Saddam’s possession or non-possession of such had nothing to do with the case. Saddam was in continued, persistent, and blatant violation of the cease fire agreement. He needed overthrowing, and we were in place to do it.

    And really, the yellow cake crap is only a convenient excuse for the anti-Bush crowd. If we weren’t in Iraq the same people who bitch about our presence there now would be bitching about our absence, and blaming it on Bush.

    It’s about the President. It’s always been about the President, it will always be about the President from now until it becomes a subject to bore school kids with. Had Gore not thrown away the election we’d still be in Iraq at this time, and I submit that certain people would be as ardently for the war as they are ardently against it now.

    The left has forgotten its way, and they hate being reminded of this fact.

  • AK, that’s funny. You do realize your string of unfounded arguments do not present one fact, just opinions which seem to be the basis of your beliefs?

  • Calame learned his trade at the Wall Street Journal, and he now writes in and keeps watch over the NYTimes, a couple of institutions that have built their unique credibility and trustworthiness over a combine quarter-millenium. You, on the other hand, have built your mediocre reputation, such as it is, at such foul rags as TV Guide, People, and Entertainment Weekly. So you really ought to explain to your readers sometime why you think anyone should listen to you when you lecture people who have spent their lifetimes doing serious work. Please reserve your suggestions for those downmarket from you.

  • Perhaps we can convince the Times’ publishers that blogs are part of their future, by asking those under 20 how they get their news. This may be difficult, as a large portion of this demographic actually doesnt care about the traditional news (witness the amount of drug and home health care commericals on the TV evening news). We can get our news through an Ipod, cell phone, pager, a blackberry, or some other electronic device. This news is up-to-the-second, accurate information. The sports scores are in real time. So is the stock ticker. So are the blogs.

    The issue is one of credibility. Traditional outlets have already lost it among the young, because they know who owns the media. Real news happens and is reported on by unauthorized outlets which do not filter their viewpoints for mass consumption. This does mean that each blog will have some bias, some errors, and a distinct viewpoint. But since there will be so many more outlets to choose from, there is a much more personal experience of the news.

    Now, which Iraq blog should I read today…..

  • Just popped into this thread and was mildly amused by the attack dogs.

    I often try to understand the cap-doffing deference shown by Americans (and admittedly a lot of journalists around the world) to the New York Times. While I don’t find it completely bizarre that people have such deference for a media source – a lot of people in the UK have a similar attachment to the BBC – I do find it illogical that people can’t comprehend why criticism might be a worthwhile process. Apparently, in order to display an opinion you have to be motivated by an ulterior motive (usually greed or jealousy).

    I’d put it to the “hey Jeff, get off the Times’ back” crowd that JJ actually wants the NYT to be *better* (as do most of its genuine critics, I think). It’s a bastion of journalism that too often relies on self-satisfaction to plump up its own position – this column seems a prime candidate – and while its not alone in succumbing to hubris, it does hold a special position that needs to be backed up with action and not just fine words.

    If such examination begins by wondering whether they should have less achingly tedious columns from the ombudsmen, then I’m all for it.