If You Want Milk, Find a Cow

19 Nov ’06

A propos of a post or two I wrote this week that fastened on the (to me, anyway) intriguing development of competition in the valley among blogs for tech news scoops, Scoble wags his finger at the kids about loose lips sinking ships – Hey kids, it’s fun until someone loses an eye! – in this case over the MyBlogLog story. Is it just me, or is Scoble starting to sound like your best friend’s Mom?

The lesson offered is apparently “Never expect bloggers to do fact checking or original reporting. Even me. But if a blog survives 24-hours without anyone refuting the facts? That’s when rumors turn to belief.” The fact-checking thing will come as a bit of a shock to the usual suspects, Rafat, Mike, Om and Nick, who seem to me to be doing their darndest to check facts, and carefully report rumour as such when they hear it, and are doing a pretty good job of it to boot. At the end of the day, if you’re trying to present yourself as news, and you do it poorly, I suspect you won’t last long – the market will self-correct. This is not a plea for cavalier reporting, natch. Just an opinion that if any blogger engages in it, they won’t last long in the reporting game.

And so I commented more or less to that effect on Scoble’s post. I’ll copy it here just because I can:

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with reporting rumour as long as it’s described as such. Anyone unable to deal with that should get out of the reading game. Provided no one loses an eye, reporting a rumour as such could be a very good thing – it might allow others in the community with better sources to verify or refute the rumour, for example. The problem is with representing unverified information as ‘fact’.

And I think there’s loads of original reporting being done by bloggers now (one of your trackbacks lays out the common examples, but there are loads of others), enough that it’s probably fair to start wondering whether in some cases the distinction between blogger and media is more semantic and historical than anything else. (This, obviously, is not a new concept.) For the rest, well, what do people expect? They’re conversations – their main purpose is to convey opinion and rumour. I mean, if you want milk, find a cow.

I’m not poking a stick at Robert – I just think it’s important to remember that the issue is pretty nuanced, and that there are a lot of bloggers handling that nuance pretty well.

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