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The face of irrelevant arrogance
Posted by: Billy Hollis on Thursday, December 13, 2007

Via Instapundit, I just saw an article that you'll have to read to believe. An ex-NBC journalist, now a journalism professor, is ready to make sure all we proles only read the news they think we ought to read.

I've never done what's commonly called a "fisking" in the blogosphere. But this article just cries out for it.


 
Supporters of "citizen journalism" argue it provides independent, accurate, reliable information that the traditional media don't provide. While it has its place, the reality is it really isn't journalism at all, and it opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse.
And, of course “real” journalists never commit fraud or abuse.
The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend.
Sorry, but tell me again who elected you? You’re welcome to monitor all you like, but regulating the speech of others is against the first amendment to the Constitution. You do remember that one, don’t you? You journalist fellows seem to refer to it a lot, especially the “freedom of the press” part. But that “freedom of speech” is right there too. You could look it up.
The premise of citizen journalism is that regular people can now collect information and pictures with video cameras and cellphones, and distribute words and images over the Internet. Advocates argue that the acts of collecting and distributing makes these people "journalists." This is like saying someone who carries a scalpel is a "citizen surgeon" or someone who can read a law book is a "citizen lawyer."
Sorry, bud, journalism ain’t brain surgery. And if you want to become as despised as lawyers, I guess that's your business, but leave the rest of us out of it.
Tools are merely that. Education, skill and standards are really what make people into trusted professionals.

Tell me about those standards again? I’m pretty sure lots people reporting news for major news organizations don’t have a journalism degree. Like this lady. Or this fellow, whose only qualification for his job was apparently that he could give his editors all the juicy stuff they wanted to back up their own preconceptions on Iraq. You might also check out what one of your own said when asked if someone can be a journalist without a degreee. The reply? "Absolutely, a lot of major newspapers and mags dont like to hire people with degrees. As one publisher told me Journalism School churns out hacks who couldnt write a good shopping list."
Information without journalistic standards is called gossip.
And reporting without understanding what you are reporting about is called bull$hi+. And that’s a whole lot of the output from you guys. You don’t understand business, economics, the military, or technology; in fact, you don’t study anything in school except how to put words in a row. But you still write stories on government, foreign affairs, and the economy, despite the fact that most of you are less able to understand those things than my teenage sons. Why should we listen to you? A heck of a lot of the time, you don’t know what you’re talking about. And it’s journalism professors like you that send ignorant “professionals” out into the media, and imbue them with the desire to “change the world” whether they understand anything about it or not. Usually not.
But unlike those other professions, journalism — at least in the United States — has never adopted uniform self-regulating standards.
Oh, it would sure be nice for you folks to set yourselves up a cozy little cartel, wouldn’t it? That’s one way to deal with declining readers, viewers, and revenues. Just set things up to hamstring your competition.
There are commonly accepted ethical principals — two source confirmation of controversial information or the balanced reporting of both sides of a story, for example, but adhering to the principals is voluntary. There is no licensing, testing, mandatory education or boards of review. Most other professions do a poor job of self-regulation, but at least they have mechanisms to regulate themselves. Journalists do not.
Yes, they do. They have a perfectly fine mechanism. It’s called the free market. You just don’t like it, because it also allows forms of competition you don’t care for. Such as Charles Johnson telling CBS and Dan Rather that they’re full of it, and backing it up. Or catching Reuters publishing photoshopped pictures. Or various bloggers catching TNR publishing fiction as fact.
So without any real standards, anyone has a right to declare himself or herself a journalist. Major media outlets also encourage it. Citizen journalism allows them to involve audiences, and it is a free source of information and video. But it is also ripe for abuse.
Do you really want to be stressing the abuse angle? As if mainstream media doesn’t abuse their position? Let’s put aside the screwups for a moment. Just look at the NYT and their journalist jihad in Augusta. Or the way various media outlets treated Richard Jewell. Or Associated Press using a stringer who’s been arrested and charged as a terrorist accomplice. Go back and watch the movie Absence of Malice, and then tell me that kind of abuse doesn’t happen all the time in mainstream media.
CNN's last YouTube Republican debate included a question from a retired general who is on Hillary Clinton's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender steering committee. False Internet rumors about Sen. Barack Obama attending a radical Muslim school became so widespread that CNN and other news agencies did stories debunking the rumors. There are literally hundreds of Internet hoaxes and false reports passed off as true stories, tracked by sites such as snopes.com.
Wait a minute! Your own media screws up and doesn’t do their homework, and all of a sudden it’s the fault of that awful Internet? Look, pal, the Internet is here to stay, and you can’t stop people from putting anything they like out there. It’s that free speech thing again. Some of it is going to be false or nonsensical. But as you yourself point out, there are mechanisms to find and correct such incorrect information. What do you want to do, monitor everyone’s email to make sure everyone is always telling the truth (as you ignorant sods understand it)? Because the information is going to circulate, and there’s not a damn thing you can do to stop it.
Having just anyone produce widely distributed stories without control can have the reverse effect from what advocates intend. It's just a matter of time before something like a faked Rodney King beating video appears on the air somewhere.
Well, I think it’s just a matter of time before some major news organization fakes a video of an exploding vehicle in a consumer-oriented report. Oh, wait! That’s already happened. Twice, in fact.

Journalism organizations should head that off.
Why? They didn’t head off NBC’s fakery. Or the Tailwind scandal. You guys can’t even quash the nonsense about the plastic turkey. You can’t clean your own house. And you have the gall to tell us you’re going to keep us out of trouble?

From this point, he spits out some proposals, all of which are impractical, illegal, or both. I'd dissect them, but really, at this point, the arrogance is beyond my capacity to absorb.

Mr Hazinski, you guys in the mainstream media are in deep, deep trouble. The whole world is changing around you, and you can’t keep up. We are in the information age, and there is literally no way short of dictatorship to suppress information flow in today’s world. All you would do with your “standards” is impose more costs on your own organizations that are stupid enough to buy into de facto censorship, while the new media will ignore such nonsense and go on making you ever more irrelevant.

But one of his proposals was particularly risible:
Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff's auxiliaries are trained and certified.
Oh, yes, I’m sure you would love to do some indoctrination outside your own groupthink-infected industry, but the rest of us will go on putting whatever we see or think into a form the rest of the world can read. You can fold up your citizen journalist certifications and shove them... well, you get the idea.

He's not quite finished, though.
Journalists generally don't like any kind of standards or regulation. Many argue that standards could infringe on freedom of the press and journalism shouldn't be regulated.
Yes, they argue that because it’s completely correct.
But we have already seen the line between news and entertainment blur enough to destroy significant credibility.
Yes, but you did that to yourself. Don’t drag the rest of us into this.
Continuing to do nothing as information flow changes will further erode it.
Nope. Sorry, no sale. I am far better informed now than I was ten years ago when I had a dozen magazine subscriptions and read a newspaper every day. The people I read now actually know what they’re talking about far more than your ignorant, arrogant journalists, and if they make a mistake, they correct it post-haste.
Journalism organizations who choose to do nothing may soon find the line between professional and citizen journalism gone as well as the trust of their audiences.
Sorry, the trust of your audience is already gone. You threw it away. Now, you would like to change the rules to preserve what’s left of your power and influence, and insulate it from the march of progress.

Thankfully, there’s no way in the world for you to accomplish that, so go back to your journalism class and keep teaching them skills that are close to irrelevant in today’s information economy. I’m sure you would love regulating the information seen by those of us you clearly regard as your inferiors, but we see your feeble attempt as proof of just how crippled your profession really is.
 
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Now, you would like to change the rules to preserve what’s left of your power and influence, and insulate it from the march of progress.

Thankfully, there’s no way in the world for you to accomplish that...


You betcha on the first, but I’m afraid you’re wrong on the second. They’re certainly giving it a good try.
 
Written By: Tully
URL: http://stubbornfacts.us/
And reporting without understanding what you are reporting about is called bull$hi+. And that’s a whole lot of the output from you guys. You don’t understand business, economics, the military, or technology; in fact, you don’t study anything in school except how to put words in a row. But you still write stories on government, foreign affairs, and the economy, despite the fact that most of you are less able to understand those things than my teenage sons. Why should we listen to you? A heck of a lot of the time, you don’t know what you’re talking about. And it’s journalism professors like you that send ignorant “professionals” out into the media, and imbue them with the desire to “change the world” whether they understand anything about it or not. Usually not.

Amen! That is one of the dominant reasons for reading blogs: someone who is actually knowledgeable about the subject they are "reporting" on. I had peers in college who were journalism majors...they were clueless about anything not "communications" oriented. Considering that everything gets more complicated and technological with each passing year, traditional journalists have gone the way of the dodo.
 
Written By: researcher
URL: http://
Tully, that is egregious, but if I understand correctly, it only affects confidential sources. The larger question of allowing some kind of journalistic "standards" to have any influence on what the rest of us produce still looks preposterous to me.

Of course, I though McCain-Feingold looked preposterous too...
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
What’s next? Gardeners setting up seminars to make sure any citizen who tried to mow their own lawn would have a modicum of professional training. I’m waiting for Iowahawk to parody this.
 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
One pirahna bite is minor. But they travel in large numbers.
 
Written By: Tully
URL: http://stubbornfacts.us/
And not to put too fine a point on it, but if only "professional journalists" enjoy that shield privilege....
 
Written By: Tully
URL: http://stubbornfacts.us/
"A day in the life"

Got up. Was about to make coffee but the machine said I needed a certification number from the Barrista Association to operate it. Drank water instead.

Pop tarts into the toaster. I’m allowed to do that since I took that pastry chef training course last week.

After breakfast, I went out to the car. Oh no, my Chauffeur Union’s License had just expired. I’d have to go to another annual session soon if I wanted to drive. So I broke the rules and prayed no one noticed my clumsy amateurish driving.

Once we reached my building, I was relieved and because I am certified by the Parking Valet Association of America, I could park my car and go to work.

Doorman at the door watched closely as I entered, to make sure I wasn’t breaking any protocols. The new rules at the elevator were too confusing so our office just hired a bellhop. Really a one month course to re-learn the button configuration was just too much.

Finally got to my desk and could begin my day as a professional journalist tracking down rogue bloggers for punishment.

 
Written By: Harun
URL: http://
someone who can read a law book is a "citizen lawyer."
Actually, before the ABA set up their cartel, that’s pretty much how you became a lawyer. You read the law books and observed court.
tracked by sites such as snopes.com.
Wait, it seemed from the context that he’s praising snopes for fact-checking? Does he consider snopes professional media? A "J©ournalist"? Crap, this professional writer has confused me about what the hell his point is.
 
Written By: Linus
URL: http://
Harun, I don’t know whether to be amused or scared. Well done.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Billy, I agree with Tully here (and I posted on the issue at DP this morning). The real problem with that legislation is that it, for the first time (as far as I know) establishes a federal standard for defining journalism and journalists. It may be only for the ostensible purpose of protecting sources, but it puts the state imprimatur on whose sources get protection. The definition clause doesn’t just do an end run around the First Amendment, it blasts a hole right through the middle of it.

I don’t know how I managed to miss it when it happened, but we’ll try to make up for lost time.
 
Written By: Bill Quick
URL: http://www.dailypundit.com
someone who can read a law book is a "citizen lawyer."
Actually, before the ABA set up their cartel, that’s pretty much how you became a lawyer. You read the law books and observed court.
Wasn’t this the case with medicine and the AMA, also?
 
Written By: Words Twice
URL: http://wordstwice.blogspot.com/
He’s also factually wrong. While the news media are international, standards of journalistic ethics aren’t. The news outlets are all owned by the states in lots of countries around the world and don’t conform to his commonly-held standards.
 
Written By: Dave Schuler
URL: http://www.theglitteringeye.com
Speaking of journalistic "standards" I note that yesterday CNBC rushed to report on an early "leaked" list of the players on the Mitchell report....that turned out to be a fraud (spelling errors and all)

Guess that’s our fault as well.

Creeps.

 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Bravo! Good show, Billy, beginning to end!

I hope Hazinski had enough life in him to feel that stake crack through his sternum just before he crumbled to dust and blew away.
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
I wonder what journalism school Tom Paine attended? Did Howell Raines’ degree assist him in believing that when someone sold stock in a public company, the amount of the sale was directly debited to the company’s balance sheet? Did Ben Franklin receive formal training prior to publishing "Poor Richard’s Almanac?"

Samuel Johnson, the great scholar, lexicographer and writer, once scraped a living from reporting on the daily speeches of note from Parliament, which were then reproduced in a prominent newspaper of the time. Rather than record the speeches word for word, he simply took notes, and then recreated the speeches from the notes and memory, generally vastly improving them in the process. Once, at a dinner party of notables, someone praised a speech given by some forgotten member as having been particularly elegant and eloquent. Johnson murmured to his table companion: "That speech I wrote in a garret on Grub Street." Clearly, his journalistic ethics were inconsistent with his reputation as an outstanding moralist.

Finally, can anyone assure me that the NYT’s Paul Krugman, who routinely turns out economic analyses and predictions that are riddled with errors and inane assumptions, attended a journalism school? It’s bad enough that they gave him a degree in economics; think of the damage that could have resulted from similar "training" in journalism.

 
Written By: nemoparadise
URL: http://
Hazinski isn’t fit to fill Stephen Crane’s wine glass.

Presmuptuous jackass.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
What I’d be interested in knowing is exactly when this widespread idea that the words "the press" in the Constitution referred only to news organizations, professional journalists, etc. was born. The words "the press" in the Constitution refer to a means of producing written communication. That’s it. The only reason that "journalists" or "news organizations" receive press protections under the Bill of Rights is that ALL citizens receive that protection and they are a subset of all citizens.

"Living constitution" my big, hairy butt!
 
Written By: Terry
URL: http://


Not that I’m not a fan of the blogosphere, but you think that you can link to five or six instances of journalistic inaccuracy, you’ve somehow demonstrated pervasive incompetence, malice, broken system?

You once took me to task for failing to consider potential statistical ramifications - you haven’t given the briefest of thought to statistics here, because five seconds of quantitative investigation would blow your argument away.

If the blogosphere had found five instances of inaccuracy in fifteen articles, *that* might be an error demonstrating a broken system. Now, since "broken" is subjective, you might be able to make a similar argument finding five errors in fifty articles, or one hundred.

But back in reality, one magazine puts out - conservatively - three or four hundred articles a year. Newspapers put out several thousand articles a year. The collective output of American journalism numbers into the tens of thousands per year. And because you’ve linked to five ’scandals’, you think you’ve demonstrated that the system is ’broken’?

Frankly, there’s a strong case that the internet is worse than traditional media for accuracy. When-dead tree makes a mistake, there’s no taking it back, and errors have to be reprinted. Bloggers admit "mistakes" by simply dissapearing unwise or inaccurate words. That’s why we’ve had all those calls for... blogger ethics panels.

The truth is that the collective blogosphere probably makes factual errors at a wildly more frequent rate than the collective real journalism sphere. Oh, but that’s cool, because you fix them real fast, right? Whatever. Spare me. It’s really cool because you *are* the blogosphere, and you like yourself. And there’s no entire cottage industry dedicated to fact-checking your a**.

I’d love to see a study on the correction rate of ten high-traffic political blogs per output compared to ten leading magazines. I’d bet $100 the blogs lose.

And... seriously. The guy’s proposals are the most harmless powder-puff stuff you could think of.
Oh nooooo!!!! Universities might establish classes where wannabe citizen journalists could sign up voluntarily to study ethics if they felt like it! It’s the end of the first amennnnnndment!!

Such a bizarre take on this article probably qualifies as "deranged". If it was more dispassionate, it might have gotten away with "bizarre", but this is the full monty. Interesting pathology of victimization you’ve got going here. But not all that unusual.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Not that I’m not a fan of the blogosphere, but you think that you can link to five or six instances of journalistic inaccuracy, you’ve somehow demonstrated pervasive incompetence, malice, broken system?
glas, I stopped reading right there. Link #4 in that set in the post was this one:

Media Dishonesty Matters

The list has over 100 items in it.

And that doesn’t include many more lesser examples, of both error and bias. Newspapers have a corrections section for a reason. I stopped reading our local paper because I would see something along that line every day.

Certainly that ought to be enough to show that a lame appeal by a professional journalist to "certify" and "impose standards" on we bumbling amateurs is ludicrous.

Since your entire comment is based on a false premise, there’s no point in responding to the it.

 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Certainly that ought to be enough to show that a lame appeal by a professional journalist to "certify" and "impose standards" on we bumbling amateurs is ludicrous
While we’re talking about comments based on false premises -

• Major news organizations must create standards to substantiate citizen-contributed information and video, and ensure its accuracy and authenticity.

• They should clarify and reinforce their own standards and work through trade organizations to enforce national standards so they have real meaning.

• Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff’s auxiliaries are trained and certified.Which of these proposals qualifies as "certify" and/or "impose standards" on the Internet?

The first one involves better vetting for things they run in their own publications. The second one is similarly referring to standards that "traditional" media should be imposing on themselves. The third one involves making some journalism classes available.

So, is this post an example of "error" or "bias"? Which is a nice segueway into the next point:
The list has over 100 items in it.
It’s nice that you referenced a comprehensive list, and I should have looked more carefully for one. But it doesn’t really change the convenient, slipshod, one-way nature of the accusations.

The first point is: when you’ve made it your industry to come up with quote mistakes unquote, and you put enough time and elbow grease into it, you’ll probably find them. Definitely when you conveniently expand past factual inaccuracy to include something called "bias", an entirely subjective phoenomenon that can be alledged for any piece of written work in existence.

Yet, when someone on the blogosphere bothers to pay attention to someone else on the blogosphere, they can come up with similar lists. Meet Instaputz. I have a feeling I could go through his archives and come up with a "list of 100 examples of error and/or bias".

Now, would you agree with all those examples? I’m sure you wouldn’t. Would I agree with all 100 examples from "Media Dishonesty Matters"? I similarly doubt it. But the point is, you have no idea what the genuine relative rate of factual inaccuracy among bloggers vs. inaccuracy among MSM media. And you have no objective metric for what a good error rate vs. a bad error rate actually is.

What you’re left with is a perception of bias and a victimization complex, reinforced by anecdotal presentations, tailored to reinforce your pre-existing grudges.


And that doesn’t even discuss the inherent advantage that blogs have due to their preferred methodology of linking to someone else’s reporting and offering a series of opinions that include no actual new facts (or just a "Heh. Indeed").

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
What you’re left with is a perception of bias and a victimization complex, reinforced by anecdotal presentations, tailored to reinforce your pre-existing grudges.
And that’s what leads you to perceive an
appeal by a professional journalist to "certify" and "impose standards" on we bumbling amateurs
that doesn’t actually exist in the article in question.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
Whatever you say, glas. Clearly, a number of other people saw a lot more in that article than you did.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://

 
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