Of blogs, accuracy and editors

by Mathew on April 15, 2008 · 8 comments

While watching the Twitter posts fly by last night, I saw some from Robert Scoble (of course) talking about advertising, and suggesting to Twitter founder Ev Williams that he be allowed to share in the revenue from ads on the group IM service. Oh, I thought — is Twitter finally launching ads? Then came a post at TechCrunch that said it was. Or was it? Apparently not, according to Silicon Alley Insider, which emailed Biz Stone at Twitter and got a denial that any such plans were in the works.

As it turned out, a background image from Chinese Business Network blogger Christine Lu’s profile pic on Twitter popped up in a yellow box somehow, which made it look like an ad for the network, as she explained in a comment on the TechCrunch post. In other words, no story, right? Except that Duncan Riley of TechCrunch said in a subsequent comment that “ads are coming, it’s just a matter of when.” As more than one person has pointed out, however — including Frederic at The Last Podcast — this assertion comes without any real facts to back it up.

Nate Westheimer, a contributor to Silicon Alley Insider, also has a curious blog post in which he laments the state of blogging, which he says doesn’t pay enough attention to accuracy, and he uses Duncan’s post as an example. Which is fair enough, of course — except that Nate’s post is riddled with errors, including two different spellings of Duncan’s last name and a couple of spelling and grammatical mistakes. Fair enough, you might say — as Nate points out in a comment, he isn’t really a reporter. So is Duncan a reporter? Well, maybe he is and maybe he isn’t.

Duncan and I have had our differences in the past, but I’m not here to beat up on him for the Twitter story. Should he have run with it based on what turned out to be very little factual information? I don’t see why not — but I think it should have been updated later, as others have. Nate says that this shows “the importance of journalistic standards, especially that of using reliable sources and having a standard for truth.” I’m not going to argue with that — having editors is a great thing (mostly). But journalism is about speed as well. It’s a classic battle between going with the story because you’re out of time, and checking one more source or fact.

This isn’t something the blogosphere invented — wire services like Reuters and Associated Press have been operating this way for decades. Report something as quickly as possible, then fix the mistakes later. It’s when the mistakes don’t get fixed that we have something to worry about, and as Thord Daniel Hedengren reminds us, we could all probably do better at that — regardless of what we call ourselves.

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