Friday, August 17, 2007

An eye-opening list

Randall Hoven has compiled a list of journalistic and historian scandalettes involving such writing sins as plagiarizing and falsifying stories. A lot of these stories I remember, but there are also a lot that I never heard of.
Offenses include lying and fabricating, doctoring photos, plagiarism, conflicts of interest, falling for hoaxes, and overt bias. Some are hilarious, such as an action figure doll being mistaken for a real soldier. Some are silly, such as reporting on a baseball game watched on TV. Some are more serious.

I leave it to you to judge whether the internet damaged "journalism's ability to do its job professionally", as Marvin Kalb accuses, or if the internet has in fact helped expose an already damaged "profession".
Now, every group of people will have within their midst people who make mistakes or who are deliberately dishonest. But perusing Hoven's list is a refutation of all those who tsk tsk bloggers and hold up professional journalists as possession some sort of ethical superiority to bloggers. There are also, of course, dishonest bloggers, but one of the benefits of the internet is how it allows instant correction and commentary on what you read. And I'm not even addressing the question of bias. It's up to the reader if he or she prefers to read biased bloggers, but at least on the internet the bias is pretty clear and up front and most bloggers forego the pretense of objectivity that reporters profess to have. And, as Hoven points out, the internet has also become a marvelous tool for checking up on the professionals and exposing their transgressions to the public.

All in all, the lesson for the reader is caveat lector.