We’ve spent a lot of time here discussing blogger credibility and journalistic integrity. My pal, Patrick sent me a link today to a medical skepticism blog called Neurologica Blog in which the author, Dr. Steven Novella rants a bit about poor science journalism. This is not a new topic for me as Patrick often points out poorly sourced science or medical news.
Anyway, Patrick sent me to Dr. Novella’s blog because of a particular post in which the mainstream press got it wrong and the good Doctor concluded with this comment:
“Perhaps the news editors thought this was not a “science” story but a “human interest” (i.e. fluff) piece. That may help explain the gross journalistic incompetence, but it does not excuse it. The bottom line is that they got the story wrong and misinformed the public.
Mainstream journalism is slowly dying in the age of the internet. This will probably lead to bloggers (or whatever comes after blogs) largely filling the gap. But if journalists want to maintain their central position in news reporting they are going to have to do a better job.”
In Patrick’s email, he said: “Made me think of something you said a while back. Funny, at the time you said it I thought, “really?”
Patrick, is referring to my long-held belief that soon we will see more “old school journalism” in bloggers than in mainstream media. A belief, that is often poorly received in PR circles. In fact, when I raised this point on a PR panel about eighteen months ago, I thought folks were gonna rush the stage in protest! But, I still stand by it. Bloggers are breaking stories that a lot of traditional media simply aren’t investigating. And, it’s not just in politics, bloggers are breaking news about major corporations that mainstream media later pick up on. (In some cases, the timeliness of a blogger’s post can give savvy investors a leg up over the general market as was the case with Best Buy’s VC news.)
Now, let me be clear, I do not favor bloggers over major media. Both channels have their pros and cons. But, I think we can all attest to some sloppiness in traditional media reporting lately. And, I agree with Dr. Novella. Some traditional reporters need to re-establish themselves as the first and best source of news. I think it can be done. But, the question now is simply, will it?
In my recent post, I referenced a study indicating that a full 95% of the top 100 US newspapers now offer reporter blogs (much to the chagrin of Mark Cuban). So, it really makes me wonder if we will simply see major media morph into blog-form. With those figures, it is a possibility. And, really, a New York Times blog still carries the same cache as a New York Times editorial. The only difference is formatting and editorial hierarchy.
I’m not suggesting newspapers will go away. But, I do wonder if the move toward blogs will change how they are packaged online. Kind of like when MTV launched and suddenly the packaging of music changed to style over substance; the look of the band had a greater impact on their success than the talent behind them because of visual medium of MTV. I wonder if the packaging of online news will simply shift to blog-form.
In the meantime, I do hope major media — especially those who cover medical and science news that can impact people’s health — will take greater measures to accurately source, fact-check and re-check their stories.