The Divide Between Reporters and Bloggers

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Greg Sargent of The Washington Post, one of the new breed of blog-based reporters, pushes back against the non-blog-based reporters I quoted on Goldblog the other day:

I submit that someone can be a "real" reporter if he or she is accurate on the facts and fairly represents the positions of subjects; if he or she has a decent sense of what's newsworthy and important to readers; and if readers come away from his or her stuff feeling more informed than they were before.

There's simply no reason why caring what happens in politics -- preferring one outcome to another -- should inherently interfere with this mission. By publicly advertising a point of view, bloggers are simply being forthcoming about their filter: They are letting readers in on what guides their editorial choices. This allows readers to pick and choose communities where they can expect discussions about topics that interest them with other, generally like-minded readers.

And he goes on to write:

Time for those who are anonymously dissing this form of journalism to just shut the hell up, let us all do our thing, and let the readers decide. If this type of blogging is not "real" reporting, just ignore it and readers will eventually figure out that the traditional approach is the only one that's genuinely informing them. And the new approach will just wither way. Right?

To which Ben Smith just recently replied:

At the risk of diving back into the sort of navel gazing that will bore most readers, I think Greg's charge can be turned in both directions. Some in the traditional media reporters have an unearned disdain for bloggers who report, or don't distinguish between those who do and don't, though the set of people who don't grasp what's no longer all that new a media is shrinking.

And on the other hand, a school of media criticism on both left and right (and Andrew Sullivan, in a departure from his small-c conservatism) wants to abolish self-consciously neutral reporting, considering it a form of dishonesty, and demands that reporters offer readers much more about where they're coming from.

Goldblog comes down, like Smith, on the let-a-thousand flowers bloom side of the issue, though I am also worried that many partisan blog-based reporters, in my humble opinion, don't do an overwhelmingly excellent job of characterizing fairly the positions of those who disagree with them. (Why, even I have had my positions mischaracterized by some of these more partisan players in recent days).  On the other hand, self-consciously neutral journalism is often riddled with hidden biases. On the specific issue of Sargent, I don't think anyone I spoke to inside the Post was thinking of him when they said the critical things they said. I certainly wasn't thinking of him in this context. He's a pretty killer reporter, as best as I can tell.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/06/the-divide-between-reporters-and-bloggers/58862/