August 30, 2011

New Media fluffing, myth-making and motivated reasoning

OK, I will call Bora Zivkovic, aka Coturnix, a New Media fluffer and other things.

A week after posting a flow chart on how to rationally argue with someone, he's again ignoring that, ready to accuse others who don't agree with him on the cornucopianism of New Media as constructing straw men, etc.

NO, really.

He's updated a 2009 blog post on New Media issues, and starts with throwing bombs:
I wrote and posted this originally on March 30th, 2009. It is intentionally strong and provocative. If you want to use me as a straw man (“techno-utopian”, “Web-optimist” – as if those are bad words) to destroy, go ahead, read this, skip the details and nuance, pick up your own take-home message, and go for it.
Bora has personally accused me of creating straw men, and in that accusation, even implied that I may do it somewhat habitually. That said, Bora, I am going to read through the post ... and show what's wrong with it.

First ... er ... it's out of date. BADLY out of date. AP reporters have their own Twitter accounts. So do local newspaper reporters.

And, it's not just out of date on that, it was at least misleading back in 2009. My group of suburban Dallas weekly newspapers had a joint Twitter account back then. And, we, as weeklies, posted breaking hard news to our website as it happened.

Second, Bora himself, after talking about "definitions," sometimes gives multiple definitions. Above all, he appears to conflate "online journalism" and "blogging."

OK, next ... "news analysis" is NOT the same as a "follow-up story." Bora appears to conflate the two.

Breaking news would be "Perry announces run for president."
Follow-up story would be "Mr. X is his campaign manager, Ms. Y is his communications spokeswoman," etc.
News analysis would be "What are Perry's strengths and weaknesses vs. Romney?"

See the difference? That's why a professional journalist is better at explaining what professional journalism is, not to mention matters financial as a constraint. (Later in the blog, Bora offers a more traditional definition of "news analysis," but, it's 1,000 words later. This also illustrates the valuable role of these people called "editors.")

As for claims that there's racial ethnic bias in not trusting Indian Tweeters? Boy, Bora, you've got a career in creating straw men, if you really believe that.

More seriously, part 1? AP, and New York Times, and other top agencies have these things called "news bureaus." I'm not sure about Mumbai, but I know all major print outlets at least have one in New Delhi, at least partially staffed by Indian reporters. The NYT has 26 foreign bureaus total, including one in New Delhi. So does the Washington Post, per Wiki. And, yes, there are Indians (I presume native) on staff at both.

More seriously part 2, while U.S. mainstream journalists may still be too naive at times, at top levels, like the best AP journalists, they know what Bora as a scientist knows, that eyewitness "memory" is unreliable. So, yes, a John/Jane Tweeter may be valuable for providing an impression of how breaking news is unfolding, they may not be that accurate. The more sudden the news, in fact, the more likely views of various eyewitnesses will diverge. So, a reporter has to work through all this.

Next, Bora talks about how the Internet has "removed limits." Well, yes. But, he ignores that traditional newspapers, TV stations, etc. all have websites. He also ignores that, in today's world, longer-form journalism, to get people to read all the way through, must also be good journalism.

That said, Bora next discusses investigative journalism. Because he gives only selective coverage to this issue, and I need to discuss this in more depth, it's a good spot for a page break.

Investigative reporting? Here, Bora likes to conflate "professional blogs" like FiredogLake with John/Jane Blogger. Jane Hamsher of FDL has independent income. She and others at the top of the FDL masthead also have independent-type careers outside of FDL, or flexible-type careers, that give them the time necessary for investigative journalism.

The other examples? TPM is a "professional blog," too. And, as I've blogged elsewhere, it has committed some of the same "cardinal sins" of traditional media, like reliance on anonymous sources, as Bora et al decry in the MSM.

But the real thing is that Bora doesn't detail the time and money that investigative journalism needs, so he cites these exceptions to the rule in the blogging world without noting that Josh Marshall and other TPM staff are paid professionals. (I'm not sure about FDL.) And, this isn't their "avocation," it's their jobs.

So TPM and FDL as examples of investigative "blogging" actually aren't. Bora talks about definitions of blogging at the top of the post; he needs to revisit his own.

Let's look at the reality of investigative journalism and time and money costs.

Let's look at what traditional media can still do. And still does, like a 9/11 10th anniversary report on 9/11-related charities and scams.

This is just the shorter version of a great story on 9/11 charities. A LONG story.

How long? 17,000 words. Point? It takes money to do that type of reporting, a lot of money. And a lot of time. And, a lot of editorial teamwork. About none of which new media fluffers "get," I do really think at times.

The teamwork part? Especially if a newspaper’s staff rather than the AP’s, it takes writers with plenty of time to devote, as well as the flexibility to step from regular assignments to an ongoing “enterprise” assignment like this. Beyond that, the collaboration of different reporters and editors on enterprise journalism brings different talents and insights to the table, something, again, a lone blogger just can’t offer.

Or look at Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson and his expose on alleged cheating in University of Miami athetics.

He took 10 months on that. If he’s making just under $100K a year, that’s $80,000 of his salary. Even allowing one-quarter of his time for other reporting, that’s $60,000. Add $10,000 for supplemental editorial health, just like the AP uses multiple reporters on blockbusters. Add in $10,000 for expenses. Add in $10,000 for time and money of editors above his head. Add in $10,000 for legal consultations and miscellaneous.

That’s $100,000 of reporting. And 10 months’ time of reporting.

And, Bora either just doesn't get the money and time involved, or ... sad to say this ... I believe he may have an inkling, but deliberately overlooks it because it doesn't fit his narrative.

Finally, in looking at newspapers, he says USA Today, McNews, is better because it has so many short news tidbits. Well, no, he says more people will read it. But, earlier, he was touting the Internet because it doesn't have constraints of space, the very ones that led USA Today to do McNews. So, which is it, Bora?

That's a sidebar, but a good way to close.

I've addressed Bora for the last time. He wants to believe what he wants to believe about New Media. The fact that he'll put a well-poisoning argument at the top of a blog post, while creating a straw man far worse than anything I've ever done says something right there.

I really have no reason, need or desire to argue New Media issues more with someone who has this many inaccuracies and other things. And who, if he doesn't know that the AP and NYT have international bureaus (rather than ignoring that fact as part of his straw man) REALLY doesn't know a lot about traditional media.

Beyond that, I appreciate that the Net, like beisbol, has been bery, bery good to New Media fluggers, and not just Bora. A little more factualness in blogging against (yes, that's what it is) traditional media still isn't too much to ask. And, it's not just Bora there, either.

Jay Rosen, as far as I know, refuses to reconsider paywalls, despite evidence that micropayment systems will work. Clay Shirky shoots himself in the foot with bias against women. Jeff Jarvis continues to write like Google pays him.

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