Why we need blogs as well as newspapers

I followed the recent dustup over some comments Mike Arrington of TechCrunch made at the recent Online News Association conference in Washington, but didn’t get a chance to write about them, in part because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say exactly. Mike made some inflammatory comments about traditional media, including the New York Times, and said that blogs were better, which raised some hackles and even drew some a critical response from Jeff Jarvis — no great friend of traditional media — and Staci from PaidContent.

Then I read something that Nick “The Prophet of Doom” Carr wrote about the event, and it got me thinking — and then I read a recent post from Huffington Post’s Eat The Press, and it got me thinking even more. I won’t recap all of Nick’s rather long-winded post (is he getting paid by the word?), but suffice it to say that he doesn’t think Mike should be throwing rocks because he didn’t disclose some conflicts involving his blog and the startup he’s involved in, called Edgeio. Then Nick says this:

Traditional journalism has its weaknesses, as any journalist will tell you, but it has many strengths as well, strengths that are hard-earned and worthy of respect. Many bloggers assume that blogging represents a step forward when, in important ways, it actually represents a step backward.

When it comes to conflicts of interest, or other questions of journalistic ethics, the proper attitude that we bloggers should take toward our counterparts in the traditional press is not arrogance but humility. In this area, as in others, blogs have far more to learn from newspapers than newspapers have to learn from blogs.

Typical Nick, right? Then I read this post from Eat The Press, which made a point of noting how many outlets — including the Washington Post — had ample evidence that Republican Congressman Mark Foley was sending inappropriate emails to young pages at the House of Representatives, but did nothing. A blogger published the emails, and then ABCnews.com did the story. And that’s not the only case of traditional media either canning or distorting a story, of course. The New York Times has several in its closet, including the Judith Miller affair.

So yes, bloggers have some things to learn from traditional media when it comes to disclosing conflicts. But traditional media darn well has plenty to learn from bloggers as well — and I for one am glad we have both.

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About mathewi

I'm the chief digital writer at the Columbia Journalism Review in New York, and a former writer for Fortune magazine and the Globe and Mail newspaper.

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