Monday, March 16, 2009

Blogging Does Not Automatically Equate Journalism

There is an article on Breitbart that tells me journalism is evolving, not dying. It points to the ever widening spread of the Internet as the reason. I, for one, skim many news sources on the web just to put together a post. But what of the millions of people, not only in this country, but worldwide, who do not have Internet access be it because of location or financial ability? Without hard copy newspapers how are they to be informed?

This brings to mind a headline today from the Salisbury, Maryland paper in which the Mayor, in her State of the City address suggested that mean spirited bloggers were the biggest threat the city faces. The news story was a fair analysis of the Mayor's comments.

The Spokesman Review's Huckleberries picked up on it and asked the following:

Question: In Coeur d’Alene, there are three online sites that touch of city of Coeur d’Alene business regularly — this one,, and the Coeur d’Alene Press comments section. The latter two sites are openly antagonistic to Mayor Sandi Bloem’s administration. Do you think those sites help or hurt the city?

I find it interesting when asking if readers thought the local blog sites were detrimental to the city, the moderator neglected to include his own. While he is correct that the other two sites are mostly antagonistic to the city administration and it's urban renewal agency, it is not always without cause. I should think being pro administration, no matter what, can be just as detrimental.

Following is the pertinent excerpt from Mayor Parsons' speech:
While we face the same challenges that other cities and towns are facing, our biggest
challenge by far is a small element within the City that consistently seeks to find
“smoking guns” and conspiracies within the ranks of the City workforce. Daily, I run into
citizens who are weary of the constant “gotcha” mentality on the part of a few citizens
and City Council members. Citizens fear standing up and serving because it quite simply
is not worth the vilification they chance at the hands of blogs and with threatening phone

Each week I do a taping on a radio station. This past week, I interviewed Gary Comegys
who is running for Mayor. The day the taping was to be broadcast, the station received a
very early morning call from a local lawyer threatening the station manager that if the
station aired the program they would be in violation of the FCC regulations. The week
before, that same lawyer called the owner of a senior complex at his home in
Westminster with a similar threat. The owner of the complex had invited his residents to
a lunch for Comegys and Councilwoman Shanie Shields. This lawyer stated that if the
luncheon were held, the owner would be in violation of federal law because the complex
was built through a program that awards tax credits on a highly competitive basis to
ensure affordable rents for residents. In both cases, there appears to be no legal backing
for his statements. He simply is utilizing threats and intimidation in the hope that those
whom he opposes in the election will have no advantage.

This is the same man who fostered the idea of a taxpayers’ suit against me during my first
year in office. This was dismissed at the most basic judicial level, but not before it cost
the City and our insurance carrier $32,000. In the intervening years, he has enjoyed the
ears of at least one member of each City Council and has cost the City tens of thousands
of dollars in legal and staff time. In almost every case, there has been no legal basis for
his claims and accusations. However much like the taxpayers suit against me in 1998, it
costs money, energy, time and focus from those good and decent people who come to
work everyday to simply do their job.

This is not about differences of opinion and policy questions. This is quite simply mean-
spirited ugly constant intimidation. Combined with the lies and innuendo of several
“bloggers” this city is under siege. Routinely, I receive calls and e-mails from citizens
who disagree with my positions on individual matters. We talk and often find common
ground, and sometimes agree to disagree. It is a very valuable process and I always find
that I see whatever issue under consideration from a new perspective.

This poses a far greater danger to the Salisbury’s future than the current financial crisis.
When people are afraid to step forward, run for office, speak on relevant issues, write
letters to the editor expressing individual opinions, then the future is in jeopardy. I leave
this job, an adventure that I have enjoyed with a firm conviction that the people of this
great city need to stand up and say, “No More”. Only then can we move forward to meet
the serious challenges and build upon the dreams and hard work of the twenty-four
mayors who preceded me in service to this City.

Sorry it is so lengthy, but it goes to the point that Coeur d'Alene's Mayor Bloem could have used much the same rhetoric. What isn't known, in either case, is how close to the truth the "mean and nasties" have come versus the credibility of the mayor's complaint?

There is no "journalism" involved in these blogs even though the Press blogs are under the banner of the Coeur d'Alene Press and Huckleberries is under the Spokesman Review's banner. Blogs are not necessarily and most often not journalism! They are opinion - right, wrong or indifferent. Bearing a newspaper's banner, at least locally, does not change that.

Rhetoric, on either side, can mask the truth. It cannot negate the truth. The question is will the truth will out? And if so, without good journalism, how?


Word Tosser said...

When I took a class in high school of general law.. there was a law that said, if one takes you to court, and it is proven by the court that you are are to pay for the lawyers and cost fees of the person you sued. The point my teacher told me, was to have people be serious and truthful about their suit. I wonder what ever happen to that law.

Anonymous said...

The truth "would" out if journalism was to be trusted. As demonstrated by the "other blog", this is not always the case. Probably, to some extent, most newspapers are slanted toward their editorial agendas. However, the large city newspapers probably are more trustworthy than those found in CDA and Spokane. "Good journalism" to me, is unbiased factual reportage. As citizens it really is incumbant upon us to ferret out the truth. Intellectually, we must realize that there are agendas. Thus the need to (as you do) read differing reports of the same stories. And then, hopefully, use our common sense to arrive at rational informed knowledge.

As for what comes out of the mouths of politicians, I generally take it for what it is worth...nothing but self aggrandisement. The mayor quoted here is interchangeable with Sandi Bloem. CU

June Saville said...

This is a huge and important subject of course. The web is democratic (so far) and that's good. However, one must sift the matter carefully before being persuaded.
This should also be the case, surely, for hard copy news as well. We tend to 'believe what we read in the newspapers', often to our detriment. That authority is often misused by greedy proprietors, and public relations machines with causes to peddle.
Reader beware say. And the more variety we have, the better.
June in Oz

Rinkly Rimes said...

Blogging seems to be pure democracy. But 'Buyer Beware.'