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Late Night FDL: The Internet Continues to Kill Journalism

David Carr on Mike Daisey and the KONY2012 dude:

The easy lesson might be that journalism is not a game of bean bag, and it would be best left to professionals. But we are in a pro-am informational world where news comes from all directions. Traditional media still originate big stories, but many others come from all corners — books, cellphone videos, blogs and, yes, radio shows built on storytelling. But there is another word for news and information that comes from advocates with a vested interest: propaganda.

Yes. No one ever pulled anything over on a reporter before these amateurs got involved and fucked everything up beginning approximately last year. Carr goes on:

It is worth mentioning that professional credentials are not insurance against journalistic scandal.

Thank you, NEW YORK TIMES, former home of Judith Miller and this guy quoted apparently because of reasons:

I sent an e-mail to someone I know who is an expert on journalistic malfeasance to ask if, in a complicated informational age, there was a way to make sure that someone telling an important story had the actual goods. “All the good editing, fact-checking and plagiarism-detection software in the world is not going to change the fact that anyone is, under the right circumstances, capable of anything and that journalism is essentially built on trust.” I think Jayson Blair, who responded to my e-mail query, may be on to something.


I write a lot about the tendency to ascribe to inevitability what are actually editorial choices, and that’s evident in the commentary here. “We are in a pro-am informational world,” as if you can’t avoid being taken in because it’s all too fast and there’s too much Twittering and oh, dear, who could possibly have known with all the newsy informationals flying around. There’s this whole narrative now where if something is on Twitter it’s like you’re powerless to make the editorial decision not to give a shit.

This stuff is not that hard. If you think something’s fishy — as was clearly the case in both the Daisey fiasco and the KONY2012 business from day one — then don’t put it in your paper or on your air unless you’re sure. If you suspect someone of being less than truthful, listen to that instinct and hold off on this new Interweb story phenomenon for a day or so. There is no law really that requires traditional media pay any fucking attention at all to any source they don’t want to pay attention to.

It’s just a dodge, all the rhetoric about our crazy modern technologies and the way they’ve made us all susceptible to con artists. It’s just a way to not say, as This American Life did to its credit, “Look, we fucked up, we’re sorry and it won’t happen again.” It’s just a way to get around doing the job reporters are supposed to be doing, which is sifting through the bullshit and laying the rest out in whatever medium is handy at the moment.


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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.