Blogs and the wicked mixing of fact and fantasy

Conor Brady is not impressed with the ‘citizen journalism’ of the internet. He sees in the rise of bloggers a “concomitant decline of fact-based journalism and reporting” Worse, he argues, “In this bizarre new order, anonymous or pseudonymous people put out rumour as if it were fact, invention as if it were science and innuendo as if it had been adjudicated in a court of law”.

‘Edit first, then publish” used to be the immutable law of information-processing in the days of ‘old media’ – print, radio and television. It even survived into the early phases of the internet when most of the news content was generated by people with a background in journalism, accustomed to applying some basic standards of validation to what they put out. But it didn’t last very long. “Publish everything first, then let the reader edit it,” became the new maxim. Why not? Now anyone can build a website for a few euro. Editing, evaluating and making judgments is time-consuming, costly and boring. It’s so much more fun and so much less trouble to lorry everything up onto the site without worrying whether it’s inaccurate or even harmful.

It’s at worst when:

…the untruths and the rumours and the fantasies are interspersed among information sources that are valid and reliable. It becomes impossible to know what is true and what is invented. An interview with the State Governor may appear plausible until the reader realises that it is juxtaposed with an article written by a crew-member of an alien craft that has landed at a secret location in the Nevada desert.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty