Bloggers need to try even harder

Update:

Fred has an update on his post in which he makes it clear that he wasn’t picking on Matt or Erick, and he has also retired the term “journablogger.” And Mike Arrington has now come to the defence of Erick and Matt, and questioned Fred’s motives in posting what he did — although I think Mike overdoes it a little in his post.

Maybe Fred’s post was flawed (which he admits on his blog and in a comment at TechCrunch), but I still think it’s a worthwhile discussion to have. But then, I guess I’m a traditional journalist. Mike says he doesn’t care about being balanced, he just wants to be right. I think that’s a natural impulse, but it can have unpleasant side-effects.

Original post:

I have to give VC blogger Fred Wilson some props for calling out what he calls “journabloggers” like Mashable, VentureBeat, GigaOm, TechCrunch and so on. Fred’s point — one that others have made as well — is that it’s easy for such sites to fall into the trap of posting salacious headlines that aren’t fully backed up, whether because they want to be first, or because they simply want to boost traffic.

The example Fred uses is a VentureBeat post about visual-search site Like.com (formerly known as Riya), which Matt Marshall says has seen its traffic climb to the point where it is beating competitor ThisNext — a claim that Fred takes issue with. He also mentions a recent post from TechCrunch, and his point seems to be that Matt and Erick Schonfeld could have done a bit more research to back up some of their claims.

Matt seems like a stand-up guy, and I know Fred didn’t bring it up to pick on him, or on anyone else for that matter (and just to be clear, neither am I). I think it’s good to point out when the bloggers we read aren’t thinking things through fully or are falling short (and that includes me), provided it is done in a constructive way. The great part about the blogosphere — which Fred didn’t really mention — is that it’s easy to flesh out and/or correct a post when something like that happens.

VentureBeat, for example, responded to Fred’s concerns (which Matt commented on at Fred’s blog) and added them to the original post. That’s a substantially better response than Fred would have gotten from traditional media, I expect. Steven Hodson at WinExtra makes a good point: if the top “journabloggers” get too comfortable or lazy, all that does is open up opportunities for new ones, which is good.

23 thoughts on “Bloggers need to try even harder

  1. the true question is here is whether anyone gives a shit if the story is true, factually accurate or not. some sites still receive new inbounds in any case. And frankly, I (sadly) disagree with Mr. Hodson – though I'd love to see it happen.

  2. Good points to bring up, Mathew. I like constructive criticism and it's great that writers are trying to call out other writers, if anything, to improve their craft.

  3. Seems a little unfair to single out Matt and Erick, both of whom have a history of writing pretty insightful and newsworthy stuff. The two posts that annoyed me most recently for their lack of research, insight or accuracy were the Techcrunch piece about the “evidence” showing Yahoo users are poorer than Google's, and the one on CenterNetworks aimlessly speculating about the link between teen suicide and social networks. Those seem like much better examples of sensationalist link baiting.

    • I agree, Daniel. And I hope my post doesn't come across as picking on
      Matt or Erick, because I think they are both great bloggers, and in
      fact are good examples of how much “journabloggers” can bring to the
      table.

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  7. Hey, I like Mike!

    But he seemed to overreact to this as you suggest here. Fred's basic points were valid and I didn't read his post as some sort of personal attack, rather an open question about journalistic standards with examples that could have been chosen more carefully.

  8. Mike's comment about not caring about balance is both hypocritical and telling. On one hand, he's flaming Fred – and insisting on an apology – because Fred didn't call his writers and get their side of the story. On the other hand, he's saying he doesn't care about balance in his own work. How does that work again?

    • There are different kinds of balance — portraying an accurate story vs. giving equal weight to opposing opinions even though one is much stronger than the other. For example, if an author is writing about evolution, the last thing I want is for the opinions of creationists to be given equal weight to the facts presented by credible scientists.

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  10. There are different kinds of balance — portraying an accurate story vs. giving equal weight to opposing opinions even though one is much stronger than the other. For example, if an author is writing about evolution, the last thing I want is for the opinions of creationists to be given equal weight to the facts presented by credible scientists.

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