Will fact-checking go the way of blogs?

With any luck, what’s hap­pen­ing to blogs will also hap­pen to fact-checking. As fact-check columns pro­lif­er­ate and become impos­si­ble to ignore, reporters will start incor­po­rat­ing their con­clu­sions in their report­ing, and will even­tu­ally reach the (shock­ing!) point at which they habit­u­ally start com­par­ing what politi­cians say with what the truth of the mat­ter actu­ally is. In other words, the great­est tri­umph of the fact-checking move­ment will come when it puts itself out of work, because jour­nal­ists are doing its job for it as a mat­ter of course.

Felix Salmon - Will fact-checking go the way of blogs?

Blogs, term papers, and a fear of what’s new

Cody Brown tweeted a link to this New York Times arti­cle ear­lier today about blogs and term papers. It’s a fairly shal­low piece with many things I’d enjoy respond­ing to, but I’ll pick one: the patron­iz­ing way the old guard por­trays newer forms of writing.

Here are two quotes from that arti­cle. The first is from Dou­glas B. Reeves, a colum­nist for the Amer­i­can School Board Journal:

It doesn’t mean there aren’t inter­est­ing blogs. But nobody would con­flate inter­est­ing writ­ing with premise, evi­dence, argu­ment and conclusion.

The sec­ond is from William H. Fitzhugh, founder of The Con­cord Review:

Writ­ing is being mur­dered. But the solu­tion isn’t blogs, the solu­tion is more read­ing. We don’t pay taxes so kids can talk about them­selves and their home lives.

Fitzhugh and Reeves aren’t engag­ing with the idea of blogs from an aca­d­e­mic or evidence-based per­spec­tive. They seem to fear­ful of the new medium and seek to dis­credit it with all the tact of a gos­sip writer.

We don’t pay taxes so kids can talk about them­selves and their home lives” is a great sound­bite, but it is ridicu­lous. First, are we so sure there is some­thing wrong with giv­ing kids an out­let to write about them­selves and their home life? Sec­ond, what does it mat­ter what the out­put is if the learn­ing that hap­pens in the process of get­ting there is sub­stan­tial? I think Fitzhugh and Reeves are far too con­cerned with the poten­tial out­put of these blogs than they are with what kids may learn by writ­ing in a medium they enjoy.

If you want to say that blogs have, through research, been the cause of decreas­ing crit­i­cal think­ing among stu­dents that is fine. Merely assert­ing it does not make it so, though. You need evi­dence to back your claims, just like the term papers Reeves and Fitzhugh glorify.

If, instead, you are going to char­ac­ter­ize the only ben­e­fit of blogs as the fact that some are “inter­est­ing” and imply that “premise, evi­dence, argu­ment and con­clu­sion” are only achieved through dead tree term papers, then you are full of it.

These two would be bet­ter off tak­ing Reeves’ advice and using premise, evi­dence, argu­ment, and con­clu­sion to ana­lyze writ­ing on the web.

Self-criticism and the Times

One day the Times will have the courage to devote a seri­ous amount of their space to self-criticism. To teach the read­ers how to file bug reports, and actu­ally learn how to lis­ten to them. And their prod­uct qual­ity will soar. Until then, we should all be fol­low­ing the Exam­iner so there’s at least some bal­ance to the report­ing in the Times.

Dave Winer — NY Times Exam­iner.

On the news

On the news. There are too many great points in here to quote just one. It’s a beau­ti­ful essay by Mandy Brown about what news means to her and what she is will­ing to pay for.