A few days ago, the weblogger Tim Blair thought a quote in a Chicago Tribune story by Uli Schmetzer was too good to be true:
"These people always complain," said Graham Thorn, a psychiatrist. "They want it both ways: their way and our way. They want to live in our society and be respected, yet they won't work. They steal, they rob and they get drunk. And they don't respect the laws."
Blair was right. The Tribune admitted today that the source was fabricated and will no longer use the reporter:
Schmetzer, who served for 16 years as a Tribune foreign correspondent before retiring from the staff two years ago, admitted that both the name and the occupation of the speaker were made up. He maintains that the quotation was uttered by an Australian man of his acquaintance.
Im guessing anyone whos being scrutinized feels uncomfortable, however innocent they may be - even reporters who arent deliberately fabricating stories.
The one thing that papers have going for them is a kind of accountabilty structure that can impact their ability to continue performing the activity. Most jobs are like this. As blogs are often unlinked to compensation, or at least direct compensation .. bloggers only have to answer to community of readers, and if the readers get turned off for a while... no big deal. Maybe thats what makes people in media uncomfortable about the phenom.
A New Yorker magazine cartoon from the 1970s - two curmudgeons say to each other " The thing I resent about "free love" is.. I wasn't in on it."
Not sure I agree that the professional media is not threatened by the blog phenom. I think media sectors, particularly pundit-type political commentary, are challenged, and in some cases displaced by availability of tools to engage in debate. And the web is providing those tools. Sound like a conceit?
If the professional media is threatened by anything it is the fact that it is no longer professional.
The newspaper media is threatened a lot more by the loss of classified ad revenue than by a class of amateur pundits with a collective audience of 10-20 million.
For all of our vaunted influence, stories like the Trent Lott speech didn't become big until mainstream media picked them up from weblogs.