Which reporting can we trust?

Media execs question the value of citizens' reporting at a blogger roundtable in New Yorki.
Stephen Baker

What's the role of bloggers as reporters? This was a central question yesterday at a discussion featuring top bloggers and media editors and execs at New York's Museum of TV and Radio. Jay Rosen told a story.

It was about the blogger Joshua Marshall. After House Republicans moved in a voice vote to change a rule to protect Rep. Tom Delay, Marshall put out the word on his blog that people should contact their Republican reps and press them on how they voted. In the end, Marshall, working with The Daily DeLay, blogged the results.

Rosen's point? Mainstream media wasn't covering the story. A blogger did, using the vast network of citizen reporters. But how reliable was the reporting, media execs asked. Who were their sources? How about if one of the citizen reporters had it in for one of the Republicans?

I didn't add my two cents on that point at the meeting. Here it is now: As a reader, I'm happy to look at that citizens' reporting. It's additive. There was nothing. Now there's something. True, the anonymous reporters are not accountable for their work. So I wouldn't cite it, journalistically, as evidence that a certain Republican voted one way or another.

But there are many ways we glean information in this world. This is one of them, and it's welcome. We hear news all the time from friends and colleagues about our towns, our schools, our bosses. We weigh the information based on the reliability of our sources. Some are utterly trustworthy, most quite a bit less. With bloggers, our circle of contacts grows exponentially, and we have to sort out what to believe.

The world doesn't put information into neat boxes for us. Each one of us is an editor. It's up to us to divide the information we come across into three piles: I've heard, I believe, I know.

More on yesterday's meeting from David Weinberger.

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