Thursday, May 11, 2006

Another blogger in trouble . . . and journosaur redux

Marc Fisher, the down-home style blogger for the Washington Post, writes about yet another blogger who has gotten into trouble with his employer.

"Will Vehrs, whose political analysis and random thoughts on things both serious and silly appears primarily on Commonwealth Conservative, one of the state's best political blogs, has been suspended from work for 10 days without pay. The reason: His blog held a caption contest, a good old blogger's standby, in which readers were encouraged to send in their wittiest efforts at labelling a funny photo. . . .

". . .The contest photo, taken from a newspaper in Martinsville in Virginia's Southside, showed a couple of country singers belting it out in less than alluring fashion, and Vehrs came up with a list of captions poking fun at the backwardness of life in rural Virginny. . .Problem: Vehrs' day job is as a manager for Virginia's Department of Business Assistance, which, understandably, gets a bit upset at anything that might discourage businesses from investing in the state's less affluent areas. And the photo in question came from a meeting of the Martinsville area's monthly economic development meeting. Uh-oh."

The consensus seems to be that Vehr made a mistake in not running his idea by his employer, but it was a venial sin at best, and he should be allowed to keep his job.

But Fisher can't quite get his nose out of the air about blogs:

"Somehow, as a society, we've figured out that what you read in blogs just doesn't have the same credibility as what you read in print or from a responsible news organization, so we don't bother to demand corrections or seek a redress of our grievances. And that's fine--going back to the revolutionary era tracts, we've had a long tradition in this country of letting folks mouth off, even untruthfully, in some forums, even as we insist on accuracy and fairness in others"

Smell the whiff of journosaur: We're reliable, of course. We're the Washington Post, and we'll tell you all about those blogs that you can't really trust.

A blog is an electronic way of publishing, or holding an online conversation. Judging something's credibility by its mode of publication is just nonsensical. And as for the virulence in blogs that Fisher decries in his piece (read the whole thing), it can easily be matched by stuff in print such as the tracts by Jack Chick or classic racist tracts such as the Protocols of Zion. And these were published in . . . print.

Credibility is an individual quality pertaining to the author, not to a mode of publication. There are a number of blogs I would trust more on specific topics than the Washington Post, because they are written by experts in the field. Science Blogs, for example, does a far better job of covering the intricacies of science than the stuff you usually get in newspapers. And Carl Zimmer's blog allows this fine science writer to explain more than what gets published in his New York Times articles.

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