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BW's Hof posts mea culpa for critical post

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January 27, 2006

BW's Hof posts mea culpa for critical post

Stephen Baker

Our colleague Rob Hof writes that he linked to a post critical of a start-up company. And after further research and feedback, he doesn't think the charges were entirely justified. And he says he was too early to write-off pan a start-up based on someone else's unverified opinion.

Rob took pains to be fair:

Now, I did hold off posting for a few hours as I tried, unsuccessfully, to reach co-founder Marc Andreessen. And I updated the post with Ning's response to Mike as soon as I saw it. Finally, my take was different: Even if you accepted Mike's arguments, it was too early to write off a three-month-old service.

The result is that there's been a discussion about Ning, and people's ideas, including Rob's, are evolving. That all seems fine. I think Rob's point is whether Tech Beat (and the other BusinessWeek blogs)can dive into those frays like everyone else. Or should we hold off on publishing, as we do at the magazine, until we doublecheck facts and get responses from people we mention?

I'd say we can dive in on most stories. Otherwise, we're not blogging. We're just doing online journalism. But I think we should hold off (ie. get responses) on those that could damage the reputation of a person and, by extension, that person's company.

What do you think? Should mainstream journalism blogs behave differently?

07:05 AM

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Tracked on January 27, 2006 09:45 AM

Just to be clear, I said at the outset that even though I originally found Mike Arrington's points reasonable (and in a couple of cases he did have a point), I thought it was early to write off any company that young.

Other bloggers may have their own views, but I have come to think that although we should try to dive into online conversations, we shouldn't do it blindly.

And to give Mike credit, his post elicited FAR more conversation than mine....

Posted by: Rob Hof at January 27, 2006 09:15 AM


Generally speaking, any supposed factual information on a blog should be taken with an eye of suspicion. I say that because most bloggers are not bound to the high standards professional journalists are. Most bloggers are enthusiasts in a particular industry, region or cause.

While there is rarely intention in errors in blogs, they are much more commonplace than in traditional media. It's just the nature of the beast (blogs).

But, journalists who blog are in a tough situation. I think there is an expected higher level of accuracy from you, Heather, Rob and any other professional journalists who blog.

Still, because blogs are much more fluid than traditional media, blogs do get in the middle of "stories" without all facts being known.

All that puts you guys in a tough situation. Due to the expectation and higher credibility of blogger journalists, I'd like to see less involvement in a fluid blog story, but more accuracy when your blogs are posted.

Keep up the great work. You're all "A-listers" to me.

Take care,


Posted by: Mike Driehorst at January 27, 2006 09:15 AM

Yes, it's what will distinguish you from the "rush in" crowd. I think the only thing that sets a mainstream media blogger apart from your average joe blow is accuracy. Don't fall in with the "post first, correct later" crowd, it's not worth ruining your reputation.

Posted by: PXLated at January 27, 2006 09:41 AM

A very difficult question. Spontaneously I think most would say that you should behave just like other bloggers. But on the other hand everything you write in your blogs will be referred to as coming fr?n BW. As a reader -and as someone who uses your blog as a source of information- I would trust a BW blog more than bloggers that I don't know. I guess that the line you suggest is a sensible one.

Posted by: Bengt O. Karlsson at January 27, 2006 09:46 AM

Stephen, your question on whether or not mainstream journalism should hold back from blogging like everyone else is interesting. I have to admit as a college student who just recently got into blogging I hesitated to comment, but I suppose that's the purpose of this blog so here goes.

I do think that all blogs posted by journalists or in the interest of mainstream media organisations should be doublechecked for accuracy. I don't mean to say that you should go through the whole editorial process, but if it's just a impulsively written blog then it runs the risk of being as off target as the majority of blogs on the web which are filled with mindless comments and pointless discussion. I wouldn't want to read something from Business Week if I thought it could be on the same level as the local gossip column or my 14 year old neighbor. Even worse you run the risk of falling down the same path Dan Rather did and losing control of the situation by not being sure of your facts. Now if you are positive of all the facts or simply adding your two cents about a current story then I'd say by all means dive right into to the blog.


Posted by: Chris Gomez at January 27, 2006 11:31 AM

Argh. This is something I struggle with as well. And I guess I have unconciously come down to the distinction that you laid out Steve: I hold off on posts that point or comment on something that could damage the reputation of a person or a company until I can get a response.

For instance, I considered posting about the interesting original dissection that the "Since 1968" blog did of an update in iTunes that seemed to be tracking people's listening habits.

I saw it first on BoingBoing.

But it wasn't clear what Apple was doing with the personal listening information it was collecting. I was on deadline on something else so didn't have time to call Apple. So, I didn't post about it.

Apple later told Macworld that it discarded the information and so that put the debate about Apple's privacy policy into some perspective. Although I still think it makes sense to be vigilant about this kind of behavior on the part of companies.

So it was an important debate, but I didn't real right jumping in without at least hearing from the other side, since it could have impacted Apple's reputation.

Posted by: Heather Green at January 27, 2006 12:09 PM

In most cases the right answer is more important than the first answer. I don't think this question is restricted to blogs - consider the CBS News incident. Regardless of whether each writer calls himself or herself a journalist or blogger, credibility is the key.

Posted by: Robert Sargent at January 27, 2006 12:30 PM

This is an interesting point, one I have been increasingly annoyed about this week with all the rumors flying around the blogosphere which really looked like a giant tabloid echo chamber on certain stories.

As I said in my post about Yahoo, there is way too much trigger happiness and not enough analysis out there. IMHO you guys have a responsibility to apply the same standard of journalism to fact check sensitive stories.

As Robert said, the right answer is often most important than the first answer.

Posted by: Jeff Clavier at January 27, 2006 02:12 PM

The issue of fact checking in blogs is very important. I for one would implore bloggers to do a little bit of fact checking before commenting on any topic. It's a practice I have adopted on my blog and I am happy that I am doing it. I even (as I suspect some other bloggers do) provide a link back to a company statement or other reference so that people can evaluate the veracity of the source for themselves. This takes a while, but it is worth it.

However, there are a lot of distinctions between different types of bloggers and not everyone will take the time to fact check a post. However, in this new media world of blogs becoming sources for mainstream media stories, I think all bloggers (especially those commenting on a specific industry) have a responsibility to ensure that our facts are as accurate as we can make them.

Posted by: Fard Johnmar at February 7, 2006 03:39 PM

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