Monday, January 02, 2006

Don't Take My Word For It (Part II)

This morning the NYT had an article, Answering Back to the News Media, Using the Internet, that illustrates that I was not the first person to come up with the idea that fuller and more complete information should be posted on the Internet. However, the thrust of the story takes a somewhat different direction. Apparently, individuals and organizations who are the subjects of news stories are posting complete transcripts of interviews, including e-mail "interviews," in response to stories based on those interviews.

The spin of the Times article was that this trend was somewhat alarming:
Danny Schechter, executive editor of and a former producer at ABC News and CNN, said that while the active participation by so many readers was healthy for democracy and journalism, it had allowed partisanship to mask itself as media criticism and had given rise to a new level of vitriol.

"It's now O.K. to demonize the messenger," he said. "This has led to a very uncivil discourse in which it seems to be O.K. to shout down, discredit, delegitimize and denigrate the people who are reporting stories and to pick at their methodology and ascribe motives to them that are often unfair."

Thomas Kunkel, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland, said reporting on reporters had created a kind of "Wild West atmosphere" in cyberspace.

With reporters conducting interviews more frequently by e-mail, he said, "You have to start thinking a couple of moves ahead because you're leaving a paper trail. And the truth squad mentality of some bloggers means you are apt to have your own questions thrown back at you."
My take is, of course, that more information is better. Rather than waiting for the subjects of stories to post transcripts and e-mail correspondence, the original story should contain links to notes, transcripts, and e-mail correspondence.

One of the criticisms of the practice of subjects posting source information on their weblogs is particularly unfounded. Specifically, the story notes that:
[T]he power of blogs is exponential; blog posts can be linked and replicated instantly across the Web, creating a snowball effect that often breaks through to the mainstream media. Moreover, blogs have a longer shelf life than most traditional news media articles. A newspaper reporter's original article is likely to disappear from the free Web site after a few days and become inaccessible unless purchased from the newspaper's archives, while the blogger's version of events remains available forever.
Who's fault is this? Newspapers, if they so desire, can simply keep articles readily available to readers for more than a week or two. Recently, announced that it will allow articles to remain free on the site for 60 days before the articles go behind the subscribers-only wall. Previously, stories were only accessible for 14 days. (Hat tip to BeSpacific.)

With respect to the NYT, there is a RSS link generator for NYT stories. I used that link generator to create the link at the top of this posting to the story under discussion here. Thus, the link should be effective for more than the two weeks that would be the case if I had linked directly to However, with respect to most other papers, after two weeks a toll-wall pops up. This makes linking to smaller newspapers (is the Baltimore Sun listening?) particularly problematic.

For me, the bottom line is that I may want to read a distillation of various aspects of a news story via a news report. However, the distillation may whet my appetite for more information. In that case, the original report, via links, should act as a gateway to enable me to locate additional information.

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