Richard Posner writes:
Inaccuracies in blogs are less pernicious than inaccuracies in the mainstream media even apart from the superior opportunity for prompt correction of bloggers’ errors. The reason is that bloggers are known not to employ fact checkers or editors; there is no pretense that they have the resources to eliminate all errors in their postings. The mainstream media, in contrast, represent to their public that they endeavor assiduously to prevent errors from finding their way into articles and broadcasts. They ask the public to repose trust in them. Bloggers do not. That is why serious errors by the mainstream media are played as scandals; they are not merely mistakes–they are breaches of trust.
I’m sorry, but yikes, this is just ridiculous. I mean: we make errors. We admit that we make errors. There’s no pretense here that we have the resources to eliminate every error. Anyone who expects to find an Encyclopedia Britannica level of accuracy from daily journalism is going to be sorely disappointed.
(And as I’ve written before, we need follow the lead of bloggers and be more innovative about using the flexibility of the Web to quickly correct errors).
One point I want to make very strongly: reporters in daily journalism don’t have fact-checkers either. We’re responsible, individually, for making sure our facts are correct. I would never pass off an error by saying, oh, an editor should have caught it. Frankly, that would be the height of irresponsibility. Writers have to be responsible for their own words.
Editors do help with certain things. They help reporters produce snappier prose, guard against typos and grammatical errors, and sometimes prevent bias and unfairness. But they don’t do a lot of fact-checking. (Typically they might compare my story to the wire version, if there is one. And if something sounds wrong, they’d ask me about it).
Continuing, Posner writes that the mainstream press asks the public “to repose trust in them. Bloggers do not.” This is a sweeping generalization from someone who’s just been blogging for six months. And if people don’t trust Powerline, or TalkLeft, or what have you … why are they reading them?
There are bloggers out there who I think try very hard to be credible and responsible, who check their sources and seem to me to be equally reliable as at least some newspapers in the mainstream press.
And then there are those who make no such attempt … who don’t check their sources, who don’t even read carefully what they’re linking to. It’s asinine to suggest that these guys get some kind of free pass because they don’t have editors.
If they’re too busy to check their facts, they shouldn’t be blogging — or at least need to put some disclaimer on their site: “None of this may be true.”
Judge Posner does a lot of careful bloggers a disservice with his comments.