In this recent post, I criticized a piece by The Phoenix's Adam Reilly. I thought it only fair to leave a condensed version of my criticism in the comments for his piece, along with the URL for my post. To Reilly’s credit, he looked into the error I raised and acknowledged it. He also quoted a new blog comment to substitute for the problematic one. While I still question aspects of his original piece, and question his new quotation, he deserves credit for issuing a correction and being very civil in his comment thread. Feel free to read all the comments here. Here’s the response I wrote:
Adam, kudos for acknowledging the mistake. I went into more detail in my blog post, but the url is hard to see. Based on my research at least, the correction was posted close to 1:50pm EST (I wrote WGBH to confirm this but haven’t received a reply yet). The second quotation, as you note, did occur afterwards. I found it ironic that in a sense you repeated Carroll’s error by basing a large part of your critique (essentially, bloggers are churlish) on false information (although I do understand how it happened).
As an occasional blogger, let me weigh in. I believe your larger point is that bloggers and the mainstream media can have an uneasy relationship. That’s certainly fair and accurate. There are also certainly bloggers and commentators, who are immature, abusive, can pile on, or read conspiracies into everything. But that’s free speech, and other bloggers and commentators are free to call them on anything they think goes over the line. However, blog communities do develop standards and the coin of the realm for most political and news blogs is the same as it is for traditional media – credibility. As others have noted, if a major site gets something factually wrong, readers write in pretty quickly, and the good blogs always issue a correction. In my experience, most prominent liberal bloggers want accuracy and laud good journalism (although you can find bloggers of every political stripe who want advocacy versus “straight” reporting).
If I may make a few respectful requests: Please distinguish between blog posts and thread comments. Commentators tend to be much more extreme, and popular sites tend to attract “trolls.” Please consider whether a comment is representative of the thread before you use it. The range of opinion between blogs, or even in a single post’s thread, can be very diverse, and anyone can cherry-pick them. Most prominent bloggers, even when criticizing each other, tend only to quote someone else’s *post* versus a comment in a thread. (It’s my view that your quotations were not very representative. While some of the Greater Boston thread comments express the distrust you highlight in the first quotation and your new, third one, I found that overwhelmingly, the comments plead for accuracy and transparency. For the second, sarcastic quotation, the actual post it comments on is a pretty serious inspection of Carroll’s accuracy and the issue of disclosure, and most of the other comments are in the same vein.) Personally, I consider Carroll’s gaffe a dead issue now that he and Greater Boston issued a correction and apologized. As I mentioned before, however, Carroll’s disdain and his error fit a pattern of such incidents from traditional journalists, which is why he received the reaction he did. (Frankly, I feel you fell into some of the same pattern, but I also have to credit your correction.) Finally, I know the Phoenix is a physical paper, and adding hyperlinks for the web version could be a pain if you’re understaffed. However, it’s a wonderful feature to link any blogs you quote, because then readers can check out things for themselves.
Sorry, this has gotten long. I’d end by saying I’m a fan of good reporting, whether it appears in traditional media or on blogs. Best of luck in your future work.
I’ll say it again — the traditional media (in this case Carroll and Reilly), deserve to be challenged when they get something wrong. However, they also deserve credit when they correct the record. Proven hacks may not deserve mercy, but the entire point of engaging with traditional journalists is to encourage better reporting. Here’s hoping this incident leads to more of it.