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Monday, August 07, 2006

56% of bloggers sometimes or often double-check their sources. What about journalists?

Although a mere 34% of bloggers define themselves as journalists, the bulk of them, actually 56%, sometimes or often double-check their sources (source: Pew Internet & American Life Project, 20th July 2006 report).

I believe 100% of journalists call themselves journalists. But how many exactly double-check their sources? How many 'professional' journalists cross information drilled through different channels before publishing/displaying/broadcasting it?

Believe me or not, the answer is "very few". Through a non-profit venture I worked for during 4 years, I had the opportunity to meet many, many journalists, one different everyday at some point, from many countries

Some journalists are sincerely curious, smart, honest, accountable, reliable, trustworthy, professional & helpful when it comes to helping readers getting to know what happened where. Unfortunately, such good journalists are a minority. I'm writing 'good' the same way I would qualify someone as 'a good person', in a narrow sense: I'm not talking about their skills, I'm not saying they're good rather than excellent, because these good people are just doing their real job, as it should be done.

Indeed, too many journalists forget about their initial mission statement: provide THE MOST ACCURATE FACTS to readers, rather than viewpoints or political messages. Instead of that, journalists are urged by their editors or their paper's owners to convey specific political messages. Reading one single newspaper hardly helps getting a clear picture of what's really going on since every single one of them expresses a viewpoint. The solution for us, citizens, would be to read all sorts of papers (different doctrines, countries, etc.) to confront representative opinions - which is hardly feasible for someone who can´t spend more than an hour a day reading the news.

Furthermore, many of the journalists I talked to confessed that, being conscious of their clout, they sometimes tend to abuse it. And when they do so, what happens? Well, nothing...A reader sends a letter to the editor, and this letter's most of the time not published, if read at all. However, in most regulated environments, there are consequences to one's mistakes: Andersen was dismantled in the aftermath of Enron, medical doctors get sued in case they do something wrong, unskilled politicians don't get reelected (well..I agree there's room for discussion on this one), thiefs get trialed, murderers get sentenced to jail or Death Penalty, Zidane got a red card..humm, let's stop piling up examples - you got the idea.

It all boils down to the following conclusion: no check & balances & seldom double-checking of sources (due to lack of time, fast-moving Society, publishing deadline, etc. - journalists just rephrase what Press Agencies broadcast), traditional media are in a pickle. Collateral damage: less and less citizens trust the media.

This is where blogs come in. Blogs, as I see it, constitute a Hegelian overtaking of traditional media routine:
Be inaccurate, just once, and someone will inevitably post a correcting comment.
Don´t mention your source & people will ask for it.
Try to lie on a blog: the blogging community will immediatly retaliate.
Blogs are also a fabulous counter-power for the people. Churchill once said during a House of Commons speech, on November 11th 1947, that "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." Thanks to blogging, democracies widen the gap that separates them from autocracies, symbolized by traditional media who have become more powerful than necessary.


  • I can totally be agree when you say "This is where blogs come in. Blogs, as I see it, constitute a Hegelian overtaking of traditional media routine:
    Be inaccurate, just once, and someone will inevitably post a correcting comment.
    Don´t mention your source & people will ask for it.
    Try to lie on a blog: the blogging community will immediatly retaliate"

    Moreover if your job is in compétitive business sector triple- checking your sources is a basic premise

    Michel Roussin

    By Anonymous mroussin, at 8/08/2006 10:25:00 AM  

  • Your experience as a competitive intelligence consultant is extremely relevant here indeed. However I believe the corporate world faces different challenges than media spheres.

    To make my point, companies actually benefit, financially speaking, from accurate information, when newspapers for instance might benefit more (sell more) from lies (I´m using a bold word on purpose) than accurate information.

    Most media have no interest in spending time and money double-checking their sources. They try hard to publish more and more instead.

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/08/2006 11:30:00 AM  

  • I would like to add that if the majority of bloggers check their sources it doesn't mean that it is the end of problems. In fact, lot of bloggers behave as sheeps.
    If somme influent bloggers announce something, lot of bloggers will post about it without checking if a part of the truth has not been omitted or without waiting a little bit to get some more info.

    In the blogosphere, there is a permanent research of the scoop so most of the bloggers want to be the first to post about something.

    The last example in my mind (you can find a lot) was the dismissal of "petite anglaise". As far as one said it was because of blogging, the entire blogosphere reacted energetically but some days after, we realized that we didn't know all the elements so as to correctly report the story!

    By Anonymous cedric, at 8/08/2006 01:52:00 PM  

  • Hi Cedric,

    My post was probably too positive on blogging, I did it on purpose, to make my point about the necessary existence of check-&-balance processes against traditional media.

    About bloggers being sheeps: that is very true. I myself took part of the PetiteAnglaise hype only knowing the story from one of the sides, that´s correct. But from the facts I had accessed to (basically British newspapers, & Loïc Le Meur´s blog), I expressed my opinion. Blogging is about providing one´s viewpoint. Blogs are no mass media, but micro-media. And the mission of mass media is to provide citizens with facts, no opinions.

    Thank you very much for moderating bullish stances about blogging. However, I haven´t heard much about those new elements you refer to in the PetiteAnglaise story...Could you elaborate a little bit about it?

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/08/2006 02:04:00 PM  

  • I don't know the entire story but what I know is that her Blog was not the only parameter in her dismissal. One thing was fictitious absences. See the post of Bertrand (in french) about it. He makes a very interesting analysis:

    By Anonymous cedric, at 8/08/2006 02:19:00 PM  

  • I agree with you when you say that "Blogging is about providing one´s viewpoint" but we don't have to forget that our point of view can be easily influenced by all the bloggers that we're reading.
    And somme bloggers given viewpoints for topics for which they have really no idea ;-)
    Reactivity is a good thing but sometimes it is better to wait for more elements before writing anything.
    [Your article about the petiteanglaise was good and argumented, don't see an attack in what I said before]

    By Anonymous cedric, at 8/08/2006 02:24:00 PM  

  • Thanks for the link, I had actually missed this article despite my RSS feed subscription to Bertrand Duperrin´s blog.

    You wrote: "[Your article about the petiteanglaise was good and argumented, don't see an attack in what I said before]" - don´t worry about that Cedric.

    Since we´re both into blogging, I can tell you what I think about blogs: I believe most bloggers have big egos, and they´re aware of it. So, bloggers want their egos to be at the same satisfied (because they´re big) and challenged (because they´re aware of it and want to learn to minimize their egos).
    Eventually, blogging becomes a huge collective learning machine. We´re all learning from each other by challenging one another.

    So feel free to challenge me, it´s always a pleasure.

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/08/2006 03:55:00 PM  

  • Hi Jérémy, it's been just a few days without blogging and I must say it was time to get back to business!
    I totally agree on the checks and balances that take place in the blogging community, but I don't think there's no parallel to be made with traditionnal media. Because a blogger is in a way a journalist, as a human it is under the same pressure of ego and the same risk of mistaking himself. And it is not true that newspapers don't come back on what they publish and don't care about readers opinions, they often have an "erratum" column for mistakes digged out by readers. And as you know the blogosphere goes beyond Pareto's law where only a few blogs make the majority of the audience, try having a big buzz around an unknown blog that talks about personal stuff and you won't get a lot of checks and balances there. But I'm probably am misleading a bit your post since this isn't where you were trying to go.

    I think that probably the major difference is in Loic's statement and leitmotiv, "traditional media send information, blogs start discussions", as this very comment is a proove of. Probably it could be said that in a blog your ego has checks and balances by other egos, I like this thought anyhow!

    Just on a final demand Jeremy I don't get the reference to Hegel applied to media, if you could be more precise I would appreciate.

    Thanks for all this quality blogging!

    By Anonymous Hadrien, at 8/08/2006 04:44:00 PM  

  • Hadrien, thanks for your compliment. I must say I like very much Loïc Le Meur´s motto too: "Media send messages, Blogs start discussions".

    Concerning your request "Just on a final demand Jeremy I don't get the reference to Hegel applied to media, if you could be more precise I would appreciate.", I´m sorry I should´ve been more explicit.

    I can´t think of any reference to media in Hegel´s work. By using the expression "Hegelian overtaking", I was actually meaning "dépassement hégelien" in French. Basically, there´s an established media sort of 'hierarchy' and blogging comes to overtake it, in quite a disruptive way. The German philosopher Friedrich Hegel considered, in his work on Aesthetics, Opera to be an overtaking of Art in general, an epitome of creme-de-la-cremee Art, mixing at the same music, poetry, theatre, paintings & drama. The 7th Art, namely Cinema, was later considered "a Hegelian overtaking of the Hegelian doctrine" ('un dépassement hégelien de la doctrine hégelienne' in French), as blogs + podcasts may be today against radio, TV, newspapers, Internet media, etc. Sorry about the whole Hegel confusion, my mistake: I made a private joke to myself and, for the comfort and time of my readers, I shouldn´t have.

    By the way, before getting a question about it, I put a picture of Montesquieu´s Spirit of Laws essay since this is where the three-legged check-and-balance system was born (legislative, executive, judiciary). I was actually hesitating with displaying something by Alexis de Tocqueville, Régis Debray, Marschall Mac Luhan & Pierre Bourdieu, but in the end I went for Montesquieu.

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/08/2006 05:11:00 PM  

  • Jeremy, I totally agree with you about the ego of bloggers. We have it big and we want to get gratitude from the others, particularly from more "famous" bloggers. Because if the blogger doesn't want to become a professionnal, he appreciates (for his ego) to have more and more people reading him...
    And even if blogging is a hobby, we all have our reasons to do it: get a job, launch a company, get professionnal contacts, become famous...

    By Anonymous cedric, at 8/08/2006 05:31:00 PM  

  • We have it big indeed! I agree on a couple things: we want to get gratitude and we enjoy increasing traffic times.

    My turn to challenge you here however: I personally don´t care about having "famous" bloggers coming onto this site. And if blogging is, you´re correct, a hobby, I have started blogging for none of the reasons you´re mentioning: "get a job?" - I´m not worrying too much about that; "launch a company?" - well, a blog would just be a waste of time and may jeopardize my project; "get professionnal contacts" - you make contacts when seeing people for real, not virtually, "become famous" - certainly not...

    I have started blogging because I needed, for a specific project I´m working on right now, to get a deep understanding of e-marketing: advertising revenue models, buzz marketing, etc. I need to write an online marketing plan and I just don´t believe I could´ve come up with something relevant without experience in this field. So far, I´ve been watching a lot e-marketing blogs without posting too many comments (time issue mainly), and I´m learning everyday.

    But then, I find blogging fantastic for another reason, and that´s why I´ll stick to IT Addict: I´m in the process of creating a community of people linked by a common interest, namely technological innovation and IT optimization of traditional business processes. My blog allows me to keep in touch with people I know (Jedi, Kari, Vincent, Yassine, Xavier, Hubert, etc.), people I don´t know yet (Hadrien, etc.) but who with I share a common affiliation, and people I didn´t know before (you for instance, Gandon François Albert, etc.) but who I might and would like to meet in a near future.

    Step by step, we´re forming a community. My mission statement is the following: focus on posting quality stuff, and these people will bring more people here, who will post even better comments, giving birth to all the more interesting discussions and exchanges. I don´t care about jobs & honours (though fame is a consequence of good quality, perseverance and a some good self-marketing), I want strong ties with people smarter than me so that I can learn a lot from them.

    Because collaborative learning is what blogging is all about.

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/08/2006 06:02:00 PM  

  • Thanks so much for your precisions Jeremy, although the philosophical debate would be great to engage, probably somewhere else. In a word and to perhaps start it, if opera has been a form of art that overtook art in general, blogging is not a new form of art (as it is more a new tool to me)therefore shouldn't be compared to art (which does not come from a tool but from a human user), even if we consider it to be superior to the previous situation. Maybe you had made that statement too I don't know; maybe it is not relevant.

    I do want to come back to your last comment which amazes me, since you're the first person I meet that I can share this healthy learning attitude with: work and get in touch with smarter people than you. This has provided me some much that I just wanted to underline it. And to finish with some quotes, Jeff Bezos from Amazon says the exact same thing as the way to succeed in business, and Emerson once also said "each man is superior than me in some way and I learn from him", quoted from the Dale Carnegie 1937 best-seller (but still is one of the top-selling books) "How to Win Friends & Influence People" (p52 in French version).

    Great lesson there, thanks Jeremy...

    By Anonymous Hadrien, at 8/08/2006 06:57:00 PM  

  • Hey Hadrien,

    - I didn´t mean blogging was an art, but a media. My whole point was to translate Hegel´s reasoning from Art to Media.

    - Thanks for the Jeff Bezos & Emerson quotes, I didn´t know about these. About Dale Carnegie, I have to admit that I have much less respect for his work which is all about giving lessons. This is typically the sort of management books I don´t like. I find History books (great human adventures, exactly like in the corporate world) and experience-sharing books (CEO & entrepreneurs testimonies) much more valuable & relevant.

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/08/2006 07:05:00 PM  

  • Jeremy, reasons that I've given were just some examples to explain that every blogger has his own reason to blog, evryone search something in Blogging (and you've showed us yours).
    It is funny, it was almost the main reason for me as you that pushed me to start blogging (internship by Airbus about Blogs and Wikis for Knowledge Management).
    I think we will stay in touch a lot because our interests are very similar. (And a part of the formation too: I'll start in september a specialized mastere "Marketing Management and Communication" and have also a big interest in e-marketing)

    By Anonymous cedric, at 8/08/2006 07:08:00 PM  

  • About the reasons to blog, fair enough - I gave you mine and I will have to guess yours :-)

    It´s pretty funny too because I was no later than today thinking of applications to KM of blogs & wikis. I was even thinking of posting a business idea I had on the topic. I´ll probably proceed during the week. Wow, Airbus, it must have been extremely interesting to work in such a pluri-cultural environment.

    I´d be very happy too if we stay in touch, all the pleasure will be mine. & good luck with your Master!

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/08/2006 07:20:00 PM  

  • Thanks for your fast response Jeremy, I get the point around the philosophical statement. Sorry I misunderstood your point, my mistake.
    The Dale Carnegie book isn't a management book, more a personal development or psychological one. I don't know if this changes your statement, I know though that I too read management books, not so much for practical advices, but more to "de-mystificate" what big leaders achieve, have some sort of "ok, I could have done it too" kind of thing. Not that I would have of course, but I think it gives me strengh and motivation on a psychological plan (and also to develop my cultural background). Maybe that goes in the same way than a comment I posted on this blog a week or two ago about Philippe Bourguignon (CEO Club Med and Eurodisney)advising not to read too much of these management books. Of course there's a giant leap between us two, and that's probably why I continue reading them and enjoying them.

    To conclude, regarding your final statement, I believe that the value of the book has more to do with who you are than what it says.

    By Anonymous Hadrien, at 8/08/2006 07:29:00 PM  

  • Words of wisdom...

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/08/2006 07:40:00 PM  

  • Hello Jeremie,

    I quite agree with you when you write that most journalists do not double-check their informations.

    The thing is that they must deliver information as soon as possible, in a perpetual run to the "news in live". Double-checking the information means losing time, an unacceptable fact for the highly-competitive information market.

    This is particularly true for Internet, TVs and radios. Newspapers' journalists have surely more duty of care and due diligence.

    By Anonymous Claude, at 8/10/2006 10:39:00 AM  

  • Hello Claude,

    I must say I can´t disagree with you about the "perpetual run for live news": this is the main reason why journalists don´t check their sources indeed.

    However, are journalists still journalists when news are either inaccurate, fake or wrong? I have a feeling sometimes that TV news belongs to the show business industry...And the same, in my opinion, goes for many newspapers: journalists just elaborate on press agencies´ work without digging further.

    Since the media have so much clout, such behaviors convey untrue messages to people about what´s going on in the world, rathen than just relating facts, facts & facts. And this is extremely dangerous.

    By Blogger Jeremy Fain, at 8/10/2006 10:48:00 AM  

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