CBS News correspondent Eric Engberg comes out of retirement to lay an old-school hurting on webloggers for releasing exit poll numbers, causing John Kerry's seven-hour presidency (sniffle):

While out on the campaign trail covering candidates, my own network's political unit would not even give me exit poll information on election days because it was thought to be too tricky for a common reporter to comprehend. If you are standing in the main election night studio when your network's polling experts start discussing the significance of a particular state poll, you the reporter will hear about three words out of one hundred that you will understand. These polls occur in the realm of statistics and probability. They require PhD-style expertise to understand. ...

When you the humble reporter are writing a story based on the polls you need one of these gurus standing over your shoulder interpreting what they mean or you almost certainly will screw it up. There is a word for this kind of teamwork and expertise. It's called "journalism."

Engberg believes webloggers should be more like, well, him, judicious in the information we share.

He doesn't understand that thousands of webloggers working independently of each other could never function as gatekeepers. Exit polls, privately spread by chatty cathy reporters for years, had as much chance of staying secret in 2004 as the name of Kobe Bryant's accuser.

From their perch at West 57th, Engberg and his CBS colleagues could guard the public from news that couldn't be reported for reasons of propriety, accuracy, or editorial timidity (FDR's wheelchair, JFK's bimbo eruptions, Queen Elizabeth's control of the international drug trade).

Like Engberg, I think that webloggers should behave ethically, whether we're journalists or humans. When information must not be set free, I'd love to man the gate.

But when you combine the teeming multitude of webloggers with the instant ability of any Matt, Markos, or Glenn to reach a global audience, I can't find a gate left to guard.

-- Rogers Cadenhead

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