Glenn Greenwald highlights an article by former Portland Trailblazers beat reporter Dwight Jaynes about the danger of reporters growing too close to those they cover. Jaynes is not only talking about sports, and Greenwald even refers to two of the prominent Village marriages I recently mentioned in my post They Are Not Your Friends. Jaynes makes clear that he has been particularly impressed by the effect of bloggers, who have often proved to be as reliable as is the corporate media.
At the same time, those who write for newspapers have grown resentful that bloggers sitting at home in front of their computers – the well-worn cliché is that they’re in their mother’s basement in their underwear – may have increasing clout with readers.
After all, how can those bloggers – with no inside sources, no background and no journalism training, in many cases – have as much credibility as trained and experienced journalists? Who would even bother listening to those yahoos?
And it has, for Jaynes, changed the way he approaches his job. He now realizes that by getting too close to his subjects, his reporting skewed in their favor, and in favor of how they wanted to be reported on. As Greenwald writes:
One of the most frequent criticisms which self-proclaimed journalists voice about bloggers is that journalists (but not bloggers) engage in "real reporting" -- by which they mean that they speak to government officials and then faithfully write down what they say and then include those quotes in the things they write, and often shape what they write based on those quotes. But that's exactly the process that transforms journalists into handmaidens for government propaganda, that makes them fear a loss of access, and renders them dependent on maintaining relationships with the very people whom they're ostensibly scrutinizing.
There are numerous reasons why the function fulfilled most vigorously by our establishment media is to serve the political establishment, but the petty cravings of today's "journalists" to be close to those in political power is without question one of the most significant.
And it's highly commendable that Jaynes has had this revelation, but it also raises the issue of The Great Convergence. For if bloggers are proving, in some ways, every bit as reliable as is the corporate media, that's actually a double-edged claim. Because this primary season saw the collapse of credibility of some major bloggers, as they repeated or invented lies, and engaged in blatant smear campaigns. In many ways, the blogs are now as unreliable as is the corporate media. It's not only a problem when corporate media reporters get too close to their subjects, it's a problem when bloggers get too caught up in their passions, and become mere petty propagandists. The blogs used to pride themselves on being "reality-based." This campaign season brought that to an end. As is the case with the corporate media, one now has to be very careful whom to trust, and whom to take at face value. The size of a blog is now as irrelevant to its quality as is the circulation or viewership of a major media outlet. And as I recently stated at another site, when even a blogger as intelligent and fair as digby is frequently vilified in her own comments, you also know how little value is now placed on intelligence and fairness.
We all have our biases. We can only try to be honest, and to be as sure as is possible of our sources. But too many bloggers and too many commenters have no interest in fairness. Coming to realize that has been one of the great disappointments of the past six months. And this is a subject about which I will not stop writing.