Networked journalism: Feeding the Times

The Times has two good stories today that were both helped by the work of bloggers. I don’t say that at blog triumphalism or as a war cry of bloggers replacing journalists. Quite the contrary, I say that because these are the sorts of examples of networked journalism at work that I hope we’ll be seeing more and more.

Michael Barbaro, Tom Zeller, and Saul Hansell wrote a wonderful Page One story tracking a nice little old lady in Georgia by her supposedly anonymous searches revealed by AOL. The bloggers pounced on the AOL story immediately and showed the way; these guys then did a great job of picking up the story, finding a perfect case and putting it in context by interviewing privacy experts.

And today, Kit Seelye wrote about the faked Reuters photos, a story that happened only because of the bloggers’ sleuthing. It took MSM a few days to pick up the story, but they have and gave credit where credit is due.

It’s not about them v. us, as Nick Lemann would have it. It’s about them and us. The more we work together, the more informed society will be. It is a good thing for journalism that there are now more people than ever doing journalism and these are just two small illustrations of that.

: LATER: Note, however, that the Washington Post couldn’t resist slamming Little Green Footballs for no good reason. Johnson replies.

: SPEAKING OF PHOTO PHOIBLES: YNET News says the AP now has a problem:

A woman has made two appearances in photographs used by the Associated Press and Reuters, allegedly wailing over the destruction of her Beirut home. US bloggers have however noticed that photographs were taken two weeks apart from each other, according to times stamps on the images, and that the photographs were taken in different locations.

“Either this woman is the unluckiest multiple home owner in Beirut, or something isn’t quite right,” noted the author of the Drinking From Home.

  • Some great examples of them and us here Jeff. You’ve made precisely my point about a role bloggers and citj can play with mainstream news.

    Wish the rhetoric from the community that spread word of the doctored photos shared your way of looking at things.

    Because they don’t you know. And maybe it’s from their rallying cries that the Lemanns of the world derive their fear and concern.

  • Mumblix Grumph

    I just wonder how much of this kind of crap they got away with before the internet.

  • penny

    Jonathan Klein, the chief executive of Getty Images, said the only way to avoid such problems was to “employ people of integrity, and if you find infractions, not only take action, but take visible action.’’

    Which is only part of Reuters’ problem. Their lack of even the most minimum standard of vetting by their editors was intentional, I feel. Reuters has consistently been viciously anti-American and anti-semitic for years. They have been exposed before for having employees of questionable character:

    Agenda driven and attempting to dupe the public, they got caught at it like Eason Jordan and Dan Rather before them. That’s the bottom line to this sorry saga.

    You’ve got to be brain dead to think that the MSM is transparent, unbiased and honest.

  • Even Reuters seems to see this episode as “them and us”. Karl is right, though: I’m not so sure all the regulars in the LGF comments section — and judging by the statements above, even here — see it this way.

  • Hmmmm… Newspapers’ revenues are dropping, yet they are expected to beef up, and rightly so, their editorial scrutiny here and abroad. I can’t imagine them sending their own photogs to each hotspot in the world in order to ensure unaltered images.

    In the old days, if someone spotted a problem with a photo, it would mean contacting the newspaper and then they would take their time to do an investigation, and maybe print a correction weeks later.

    What I’m saying is that MSM should develop a symbiotic relationship (finally!) with its readership, and have a system where they can react immediately to concerns about content. I hate the terms “blogs” and “bloggers.” Since the beginning of publishing, they have had a knowledgeable, curious, and insightful (inciteful?) readership. Now, they’re being shamed into accepting the fact that news can be examined, discussed and critqued without the processing of their editorial hierarchy whose flaws are now being exposed.

    Now, the spin is that “those bloggers” are the ones who are looking to cause trouble by snarking whenever they can. I think it’s closer to the truth to believe that their readership has always wanted this ability to provide feedback. BTW, don’t call me a blogger.

  • Hey how come you’re ignoring the incredible Lamont blogging story – easily the biggest tangible outcome for bloggers in history, yet no Jarvis weigh-in?

  • Bill, you’re right that the MSM should develop such relationships, and thankfully, there are glimpses of that taking place here and there. Hopefully all will recognize the benefits in such efforts.

    Sadly as you can see from some of the comments here however, there are still too many who look at at the possibilities and instead see an adversarial relationship.

    There needs to be a whole lot more bridge building by folks brave enough to do it.

  • Nick Lemann seriously screwed up that piece of his. He had an opportunity to discuss the what Jeff is talking about, and instead fell back on the ‘us versus them’ narrative. One that does little good and serves mainly to market one group over another, instead of services to benefit us all.

    Damn shame.

  • I still think that the photographer was trying to emphasize the smoke (he claims he was trying to cover a defect) to make it look like what he saw. The retouching was too crude not to be noticed.

    What is interesting is the way both sides immediately saw a vast propaganda conspiracy. Either it was the photographer with a hidden agenda or the wire service, or the papers that printed the picture.

    Believing that everything is politically motivated is a form of paranoia. The result is that accidents, coincidences and just plain incompetence are all treated as significant.

    This leads to poor policy planning from politicians and poor reporting by the press.

  • To imply that Reuters somehow endorsed Hajj’s manipulation of his photos because it is “anti-American” and “anti-Semitic” shows your own “them and us” mentality towards the mainstream media — exactly what you are arguing against. And it is like saying that the New York Times and Washington Post support reporters who make up stories and claim they are facts.

    Reuters should definitely have been more vigilant. But to imply, as some commenters have, that the organization, which has had the trust of millions of readers and other news organizations for decades, chose to run Hajj’s photos on purpose is ludicrous.

  • penny

    To imply that Reuters somehow endorsed Hajj’s manipulation of his photos because it is “anti-American” and “anti-Semitic” shows your own “them and us” mentality towards the mainstream media — exactly what you are arguing against.

    Nichola, if you had read what I wrote correctly, I was not arguing “against” a “them and us” mentality towards the mainstream media, but, was arguing for one. There is no contradiction in what I wrote. The public should have an adversarial attitude toward the MSM for purposes of keeping them honest.

    “Trust of millions”, please, your naivety is totally unsupported by facts and all that has happened in the MSM before Reuters’ blow-up. Dan Rather had the alleged trust of millions of viewers too. And what happened there, Nichola? Your assumption that “fake, but accurate” isn’t intentional anywhere in the media is stupid.

    Sorry, but I’m not a sheeple that swallows whole the news products that are being exposed with increasing frequency as false, unreliable and biased. If you haven’t noticed the almost daily unmasking of the MSM’s errors and biases by vigilant citizens, then you have your head buried in the sand.

  • Good topic. We now have arrived at a conundrum.

    Back in December 2003– so long ago we were winning in Iraq– Jeff had hailed a great day for citizen’s media— photographs about a “anti-terrorism demonstration” in Baghdad that first appeared on an Iraqi blog were republished in the Weekly Standard. The blogger, Zeyad of Healing Iraq, later was invited to submit a blog for the Times in Day to Day in Iraq from January to June of this year.

    A year later, at the Blogging, Journalism, and Credibility conference in January 2005, Jeff extolled this model, and several of the citizen-journalism advocates chimed in. The cost of the NYT Baghdad bureau, to some, was seen as superfluous, since citizen-journalists could step up. One voice of enlightened defense was Rebecca MacKinnon, who responded that, well, the point of a foreign correspondent is to translate news back to the home audience. But no one really drove home the point about concerns of credibility.

    But now the shoe is on the other foot and the lens is pointing the other way. All of a sudden American media critics are looking at bylines that, well, don’t sound like American names. They charge: Who are these people? Are they credentialed? Or is Reuters just cutting costs and hiring anybody with a camera?

    We’d like to have it both ways, or all ways. Who wouldn’t? We want our news (er, our “comment”) to be free; we want to pay the locals; we want personal reporting, but we want to still ensure credibility of what’s reported.

    If we want to invest credibility in citizen journalism experiments, it requires systems. Not slogans.

  • Penny,
    My comment was in response to both the post and the comments, not to just yours. And since Jeff Jarvis’ post talked about bloggers and MSM working together, that was what I was referring to when I said “exactly what you are arguing against.”

    I base my comment about millions trusting Reuters on the fact that it is one of the world’s largest news organizations, with around 330,000 subscribers, each of which in turn passes on Reuters-produced information to its subscribers/readers. You wouldn’t buy a product from a company you don’t trust, would you?

    And I am aware of biases and mistakes that crop up in the MSM — much like they do in the blogosphere. But at least in the MSM, there is some internal accountability, be it in the form of editorial policy, (Reuters’ is here: editorial board or something along those lines. We have yet to see something matching it in the blogosphere.

  • Jh

    I thought the Washington Post article on LGF was pretty fair, pointing out that Johnson did find the problem with the picture. It also gave JOhnson’s views clearly. And in fact, they didnt cover some of the more extreme comments in his blog — calls for exterminating all Arabs or Muslims are or used to be fairly common. Even the title “Blogger takes aim at MSM and hits” or the equivalent seems positiev to me.

    JOhnson’s objection seems to be that it referred to CAIR as a civil rights group, whereas Johnson thinks its a hate organization. And the question of the FBI investigation.

    Jarvis, are you done pimping for LGF yet ? And how come no mention of the Lieberman race and the role of bloggers yet ? DO bloggers become heroes in your mind only when their actions coincide with your political beliefs ?

  • penny

    Well, Nichola, when you get down to it, AP and Reuters have pretty much a lock on news feed services. There aren’t a lot of alternatives. And you can bet that trust in Reuters is diminish after this incident. More people will pay better attention to the news source. Many do now.

    But at least in the MSM, there is some internal accountability

    Good for what, when external accountability keeps exposing how poor that is? And for how long was Jason Blair on the loose at the NYT’s?

    Nichola, I feel sorry for you if you think an editorial board never has an agenda, always properly checks facts and never perpetrates fraud. These people aren’t some priestly caste. They are media merchants with a product. Bloggers have the same relationship with truth, if they lie, their viewers leave too. Bloggers, and I’m talking about established sites with balanced content not the ranting maniacs at Kos, invite scrutiny and immediate feedback. It’s interactive and democratic. We wouldn’t be having this discussion at the NYT’s or WaPo site, now would we?

    I hate to break it to you but professional journalism is an oxymoron. It isn’t a unique body of knowledge. Telling the truth is a pretty common ethic with standards in place in all fields. Crafting a good story is more talent than education. The best journalists didn’t have journalism degrees. Telling the truth isn’t teachable. I can name at least six blogs with better well-crafted and researched original content then I’ve come across in the MSM in years.

    Defend the indefensible at Reuters all that you want. How diligent to fairness was Reuters in assigning a local Muslim photographer to cover this war without careful scrutiny of his work? They weren’t. They got caught. They aren’t to be trusted.

  • “I can name at least six blogs with better well-crafted and researched original content then I’ve come across in the MSM in years.”

    Please do. And with examples of indepth investigative journalism that shed light on some orgnization or individual of real power. PorkBusters and a few efforts by Joshua Micah Marshall come to mind. More stories like that need to be told.

    But enough to eliminate Reuters as a useful service?

    I don’t put journalists on any kind of mantle, hell no, but those that want eliminate the profession, as whole, are joining the good company of politicians, corporations, and marketers.

    Jeff’s absolutely right about forming relationships more along the lines of “us AND them” versus adversarial, “you’re old, we’re new, now die” attitudes some have.

    And Penny – you can have conversations like this in comment threads over at the Inquirer and Daily News believe it or not. From their bloggers and from their articles.

  • penny

    But enough to eliminate Reuters as a useful service?

    I in no manner suggested Reuters could or would be eliminated from the news feed monopoly they share with AP. But, their content will be better scrutinized.

    Here’s a nice electic mix for starters, Karl, covering the WOT, European politics, and cultural topics, all with a mix of original analysis and content. These bloggers surpass by any metric most of the drivel cranked out by the MSM.

    Let me also add Michael Totten who has been reporting from Iraq, and Lebanon, now Israel for months. His journals have interviews, analysis and photos that, in my opinion, are far superior to the efforts to date made by the MSM.

    I’ll pass on your suggestion to visit the Inquirer and the Daily News. I give them credit for breaking down the barrier to their readers that the elites won’t do. But, that wasn’t your point.

  • Yup, you folks have the conundrum down.

    One one hand, Jarvis (and others in the crowd of hackademics– his word) act as eformers: let’s work together with the media. Let’s help them see the light.

    But on the other hand, they’re still providing grist for the revolutionaries: The MSM doesn’t get it, brave new world, new rules, etc, which attracts the sort of people aligned with the “hopelessly biased” mindset that leads from Reed Irvine to Hugh Hewitt.

    As for PorkBusters and several of Josh Marshall’s efforts– those are truly innovative examples of online work without all the revolutionary charades about chucking the ancien regime.

  • penny

    And, your point is, Jon?

  • Wendy Warren tried to post this comment but the spam filter blocked it for some reason, so I’m posting it now…..

    love Jeff’s term, “networked journalism.” It implies not only connectivity but a sense of the system working for the sake of the system — as a network heals and strengthens its component parts. Thereby making journalism better, unlike, say, NETWORK journalism, or for-double-digit profits journalism.

    One very minor question:

    In Jeff’s post, he refers to the Post “slamming Little Green Footballs for no good reason.”

    I read the Post story and took away from it a very positive view of LGF. As a reader, I thought the story was balanced and the blog one that I want to read. What was the slam?

    Was it this?

    “Hooper [who is a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations — wkw] says the Reuters incident is unfortunate in itself, but says such sites as Little Green Footballs use such lapses “as a club against the entire mainstream media. Their line is basically that if one freelance photographer alters a photo, then everything Israel does must be justified. Or if one of the sentences that Dan Rather once uttered wasn’t correct, then the media is corrupt and Dan Rather’s whole career is rotten to the core.”

    The FBI, according to Hooper, recently investigated several threats of physical harm against Muslims posted by Little Green Footballs readers”

    That’s a slam?

    Geez, you should see what people say about us.

    …. Jarvis again….. I take the point. I guess I was trying to say that I don’t know why it was relevant to get someone to attack Johnson in this context. I took that act as a slam. But you’re right that it was misleading to label the whole thing as a slam as a result.

  • penny, those are great examples.

    Like you, I think the scrutiny we can bring (I’m a blogger – not ashamed of the term – and I host a hybrid citj service myself) to the table can help better inform the public and provide a public service.

    I just don’t believe rhetoric that stems from certain corners to bury the journalism profession (Michael J. Totten is certainly someone I consider a professional) is helpful in the least. Folks like Jeff get unfairly lumped with such actors as Jon connects those dots.

    Nor do I think those journalists out there, like Nick Lemann, do themselves any favors by setting up straw man arguments out of what clearly is fear. Fear of the present. Fear of the future. Not all journalists feel this way. But as Jeff gets lumped in with those that want to bury the profession (and he doesn’t – you know that, but others here don’t seem to grasp it), not all journalists look at bloggers as adversaries.

    We don’t need to be adversaries to be watchdogs and provide additional service? Do we?

  • penny

    Thanks, Karl. I glanced at your site. It’s a neat concept. May you thrive.

  • Many thanks to Penny for the nice mention! If I can add something that I think enriches and enhances the blogospheric experience, it’s commenters like you guys. Many of the best blogs are conversation-starters and conversation-promoters as much as they are anything else, it seems to me. We supply starting-off points. I often feel that, as a blogger, I function more like a restauranteur than I do like an anchorman or prof. My role’s more in keeping the good yak going than it is in lecturing anyone about anything. Everyone’s welcome to join in so long as they keep it civil. It’s amazing and wonderful how many smart and interesting people do drop by and join in. A good blog is often a joint creation of the blogger and the visitors. And, speaking as the guy who keeps the blogging coming day after day, it’s the visitors (rather than, god knows, any money) that keep me doing it. Love ’em, learn from ’em, enjoy their company. Good conversation is its own wonderful reward.

    I’ll venture that that’s one thing that the MSM hasn’t learned. When they think about “interactivity,” they think about offering readers the chance to vote online, or takes quizzes. One thing they don’t seem to understand is that a big thing the blogging-world thang offers that they don’t is the chance to really take part. They tend to feel not just that they should be running the conversation but that they should be the stars of it. I think many of them don’t realize how fed up with that model many people are.

  • Karl– I’m trying to understand what you meant. Yes I did connect dots. I’m not going to argue it strongly here because I can argue it elsewhere much more effectively. But there is a bit of revolutionary zeal on sites like BuzzMachine that goes with the reform-minded stuff.

    And, in certain cases, the zeal is justified. It could be argued that many trade presses are in dire need of an overhaul.

    As for the article on Johnson, I’d be curious if the reporter had thought to contact Reuters about LGF’s regularly calling referring to them as “al-Reuters.” Otherwise, I agree with Wendy.

  • I wasn’t saying you was incorrect Jon. Even calling it a conundrum is pretty spot on. I agree with ya.

    Jeff’s spam filter got me earlier on this, but your “If we want to invest credibility in citizen journalism experiments, it requires systems. Not slogans.” is a great motto in and of itself and explains why I’m looking forward to seeing so much.

    It’s attempt to address how do we pay for investigative, independent journalism, is bold and interesting. It, and other efforts, maybe even some by the mainstream media, will hopefully answer that call of yours. Shoot – it should go in my quotes file :)

  • And thank you penny :)

  • ty

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