Our sloppy press strikes again

By Dogtown Commoner | Posted at 9:17 pm, August 19th, 2007 | Topic: the press, blogging

The LATimes ran a pretty silly column by Michael Skube in Sunday’s about bloggers versus traditional reporters. While Skube was arguing (correctly) that most blogs are all opinion and no original reporting, the column itself was notable for being long on opinion, and short on reporting. For example:

One gets the uneasy sense that the blogosphere is a potpourri of opinion and little more. The opinions are occasionally informed, often tiresomely cranky and never in doubt. Skepticism, restraint, a willingness to suspect judgment and to put oneself in the background — these would not seem to be a blogger’s trademarks.

The language itself (”uneasy sense,” “seem”) is a tip-off that the author probably hasn’t done much actual research into the matter. Indeed, Skube apparently got that “uneasy sense” without bothering to spend much time learning about blogs. His column included the following passage:

And to think most bloggers are doing all this on the side. “No man but a blockhead,” the stubbornly sensible Samuel Johnson said, “ever wrote but for money.” Yet here are people, whole brigades of them, happy to write for free. And not just write. Many of the most active bloggers — Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, Joshua Micah Marshall and the contributors to the Huffington Post — are insistent partisans in political debate.

The four people named — Sullivan, Yglesias, Marshall, and Huffington — in fact do not write for free. Even worse, when Josh Marshall emailed Skube to point out that unlike most blogs, Talking Points Memo actually contains a decent amount of original reporting, Skube emailed back saying that an editor had added Marshall’s name to the piece. More damningly, he noted that, “I didn’t put your name into the piece and haven’t spent any time on your site. So to that extent I’m happy to give you benefit of the doubt.”

So in a column criticizing blogs for not doing any original reporting, the author didn’t bother to check out one of the bloggers who was being accused by name under his byline. But it’s worse than just sloppiness — Josh Marshall’s blog is one of the most prominent blogs around. The LATimes itself had a well-reported article in March about Josh Marshall and the hard work his team had done to pursue the US Attorney story when the rest of the press were ignoring it. By admitting that he “hasn’t spent any time on” Talking Points Memo, Skube is essentially admitting that he is ignorant of the very subject he opined about in print. How ironic, given the accusations against bloggers that he makes in the column.