Media Discontent

Two's a trend: See Matt Haughey and Nick Denton both frustrated by media coming at them for quotes on stories that seem to have predetermined agendas. I've had this happen to me a bunch of times, too, and it's one of the reasons that I think blogs are useful as a complement to journalism, since they were both able to get their side of the story out after having been threatened with quotes out of contest.

As Phil Ringnalda noted, every story that we read that's about our industry contains errors, ranging from egregious to merely annoying. What errors are we missing in other stories where we're not already experts?

But what really gores my ox is the awareness that, since every news article I read about something I actually know is completely, utterly, absolutely, factually, wrong, I have to assume that all the ones I read about things I don't know are just as wrong. Maybe they get eight out of ten facts in the article right. How do I know which eight, or more importantly, which two?

Now, I should say in fairness, I know a lot of journalists who like that they can get feedback and corrections on stories from the blogosphere. Hell, that mirrors my own experience, where I'll post about things I don't really have a firm grasp on, in order to start a conversation that helps clarify things. And maybe the reporters who talked to Matt and Nick didn't already have their angles picked out.

I'm a bit biased because recently I've been asked by a few people to give leads or quotes on the Dark Side of Blogging. Everybody is looking for another Heather who got fired for her blog, and they aren't interested in any of the positive stories. We managed to turn one around recently, when Lia talked to a NY Post reporter who was shooting for a Dark Side post and instead got Lia's well-balanced response that "there's a downside to leading a public life but it's worth it for me".

To be fair, I generally think this is more the fault of the editors who assign stories than the writers who are assigned to them, except when it's freelancers pitching the pieces. When I was asked the other day "are there other tragedies than Dooce's firing or Michael Hanscom's Microsoft adventures?" I had sent the following reply:

One thing I would suggest is considering a, well, more uplifting angle. There have been an awful lot of "blogs can cost you your job!" or "make money fast with blogs!" stories, and very few that cover the positive reasons people have weblogs.

For a lot of your audience, this is their first impression of what weblogs can be, and frankly, if they were all about dire consequences, there wouldn't be millions of people publishing weblogs every day.

Most of the people in my social circle have met their spouses/significant others, gotten apartments, gotten jobs, made friends, or (in my case) all of the above because of their weblogs. All that plus they get to participate in a new medium instead of just passively consuming media.

From what I know of [name of publication], the audience is one that appreciates a good positive human story, and it's also much more likely that you'll get some good cooperation or participation from people in the weblog realm who can help strengthen your story.

I'd be glad to talk to your editor if you'd want to pitch a less doom-and-gloom version of the story, but either way thanks for getting in touch, and feel free to call or email if you need any more information or want to try starting a weblog of your own to see how it works.

My general tactic these days is to either say as little as possible, so that nothing can get taken out of context, or to say things that are obtuse enough that nobody could decipher them. "I didn't know that I cared about yogurt until I read the blog."

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