Skip to comments.No Disputing It: Blogs Are Major Players (LA Times Piece Devoted to FreeRepublic and Buckhead)
Posted on 09/13/2004 9:38:03 PM PDT by Remember_Salamis
No Disputing It: Blogs Are Major Players Netizen's late-night post questioning CBS claims about Bush's service spreads at warp speed. By Peter Wallsten Times Staff Writer
September 12, 2004
WASHINGTON These days, CBS News anchor Dan Rather and his colleagues at the network's magazine program "60 Minutes II" are enduring an unusual wave of second-guessing by some of the public and fellow journalists.
For that, they can thank "Buckhead."
It was a late-night blog posting by this mystery Netizen that first questioned the validity of documents Rather cited Wednesday as proof that George W. Bush did not fulfill his National Guard duty more than 30 years ago.
(Excerpt) Read more at latimes.com ...
dude, you're famous!
They concluded the story with my quote.
Why do you need to know. If someone makes a good point, it doesn't matter who they are.
Is a Netzen good or bad?
And if he is, so what? Sure, it was nasty to fool poor Danny, but where, then, was Danny's integrity when he ran with the uncorroborated story? Someone said it before: you can't fool an honest man.
It's actually more of a clubhouse of right-wing lunacy.
To which I answer...Prof, how do we really know who's doing the MSM?
Rather's sure not telling.
So we are right wing lunatics? Well all I can say is that I'd rather be a right wing lunatic on Free Republic than be the grandest member of the Mainstream Media as it exists today.
FR--beyond almost famous.
I don't believe you can post LA Times articles in full.
LA Times is excerpt-only. That includes down thread.
""It was amazing Thursday to watch the documents story go from FreeRepublic.com, a bastion of right-wing lunacy, to Drudge to the mainstream media in less than 12 hours," said Jim Jordan, a strategist for independent Democratic groups opposed to Bush.
"That's not to say the documents didn't deserve examination. But apparently the entire thing was cooked up by a couple of amateurs on Free Republic. The speed with which it moved was breathtaking."
RIGHT WING LUNACY??? A 'COUPLE OF AMATEURS'???
Well, I've only got one thing to say to Mr. Jordan. Neener Neener Neener!!!! Now go work on your resume, you'll need it.
Just out of curiosity I scanned a long list of old Buckhead posts going back to early this year, and from what I see, it wouldn't surprise me to find that Buckhead has already achieved public recognition somewhere along the line. I say this because, although his postings show him to be highly intelligent, well-read, well-educated, and evidently well-travelled, he shows not the tiniest trace of the kind of egocentricity so typical of the person with those attributes who posts on internet message boards.
Consider the source... "Jim Jordan, a strategist for independent Democratic groups opposed to Bush."
I'm not happy about the research being done on Buckhead in order to reveal his real name and assassinate his character.
I'm sure when they find out the MSM will say -- gasp! -- he's a devout conservative!
They've already used FreeRepublic to slander the co-author of "Unfit for Command".
SSSHHHHHHH! DOn't give him away....He's now known as "Deep FONT"!
So Buckhead if a meeting with the President is in your future, tell him we love him ok!
Hehe, good one!
High praise coming from the Slimes.
A proud non-subscriber for over 17 years
I'm not happy either. But I bet chances are good that they won't find him out. He's too sharp for that.
Check out the DU research project on Buckhead:
If only there weren't any pesky "people" in the country, and it was just us MSM journalists. Real people, using logic and independent thought, are so darn annoying when we MSM are trying to accomplish something.
The fear I have is: How do you know who's controlling the evening news reports?
It was a late-night blog posting by this mystery Netizen
Not strictly true.
FreeRepublic pre-dates Blogs..
Wow, what interesting reading. So they are bashing Buckhead because he "might be gay". I thought the rats were all about embracing the homosexual culture and their rights.
Danny doesn't even know the meaning of honesty. Asked if Bill Clinton was an honest man, he said yes. Followed up with a person who lies can still be an honest man! Perhaps that is how he can claim the docs are true, because even if they are a lie, they can be honest?
Who cares if Buckhead is Karl Rove? Who cares who is behind a weblog? The damned documents are clearly forged and fraudulent! The truth is the truth regardless of whether Mother Teresa (the good one) or Joseph Stalin (the bad one) points it out to the public..
They're saying Ralph Reed is gay.
I heard him say that tonight and thought the very same thing.
Oh, my bad. I missunderstood. Thanks for the correction.
Gasbag O'Reilly has lost his right-wing lunatic audience; that's why he is #2 now and heading for MSNBC-ratings land.
Think I lost you there . . .
I e-interviewed Jeffrey Seglin of Emerson. Here are the results: my synopsis/analysis at the beginning, then the (redacted for personal information) text of my correspondence, below.
Overall, Jeffrey Seglin presents a defense of his comments. Key points of note in his response are
* he had no idea how or why the interviewer contacted him, specifically, for this article
* Inter alia, he has a contract to write a column on ethics called "The Right Thing" for the NYT Syndicate. [This could be an explaination of how the LA Times found him - jrp]
* his overall view is that many bloggers are doing a 'great job in policing other bloggers', but that the MSM should be appropriately wary
* he did not acknowledge, dare I say even sidestepped, my assertion that by saying "and it eventually turns out that the '60 Minutes' documents were perfectly legitimate"(as opposed to using some theoretical other case), he tacitly supported the (fallacious, then and now) idea that it is possible they might still be, continuing the FUD
* after reviewing the existing information about the documents, he has not as of this writing acknowledged that the above premise (that it is possible it will eventually 'turn out' to be perfectly legitimate) is incorrect
* he did not reference his personal politics affiliations, but instead presented his credentials for 'balance' by the fallacious 'balance of email responses'. Somehow, we are to construe, a clatter of emails supporting President Clinton is equal to a call from V.P. Cheney's office. [JRP's slightly snippy reaction: I characterize this as the 'all crazy people are equally important' defense]
Regarding the LA Times interview, here: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/la-na-blog12sep12,1,4850075,print.story?coll=la-news-politics-national
[Some more personal bits of the correspondence redacted]
> In the interest of fair play, Jeff, I'll post any
> response you have to make to FreeRepublic, or post a
> link if you want to put something up somewhere yourself.
> I do hope you don't get spammed or flamed, as
> occasionally happens - if it starts, it usually stops
> after a few hours to a day or two.
For the most part people have been pretty civil in their Emails. But the volume has been great and I admire the dedication readers have to their blog of choice.
I should preface all my comments by saying that while Peter Wallsten (whom I don't know and have never spoken with before; not sure how he found me) called me at home on Saturday and we talked for many half an hour about the issue he was writing about. The quotes he uses in the piece strike me as accurate, but are obviously drawn from a larger conversation in which we talked about such things as this certainly not being the first time that bloggers broke a story that was later chased by mainstream media. Drudge's report of the Monica Lewinsky affair was probably the best known example and we spoke about that and his ability to get the story out there before Newsweek which apparently had the story at the time as well.
> Your assertion/question: The fear I have is: How do you
> know who's doing the Web logs?
> Is this really your fear? Anyway, the answer to your
> question is: Because they are sourced. Anonymous or
> short-timers are immediately outted as that, and
> discounted appropriately. Pseudoanonymous long-timers
> have a history which is usually available, and can take
> credibility relative to what they have posted before.
> History shows that most pseudoanonymous people will come
> forward with real names and contact info when it becomes
> a matter of character and importance - as has happened
> in this case.
> The 'rumor mill' isn't quite as rampant on some places
> as others. Generally, when the signal-to-noise ratio
> makes it above a certain threshold that bloggers start
> looking up and taking notice. Also, we're now on the
> lookout for scams - you can find any one person to say
> anything (much like the LA Times did in this instance),
> and those with a mind to will be able to fool some of
> the people some of the time, but it will be _very_ hard
> to fool blogspace for long. It's crystal clear (to me)
> that the framework and feedback mechanisms that have
> been created follows intuitive memetical processes which
> will do a good job at filtering out the truly incorrect
> or highly questionable factual information.
> It occurs to me someone with a bit of background in
> ethics should have thought to ask the flip-side question
> (I suppose it's possible you did and they tanked it,
> which would be more than a little bit ethically
> questionable and proves the point you're trying to
> dispute, but from the tenor of the remains of your
> quote, it's not obviously probable):
My point made to the LA Times was that journalists in the MSM have a responsibility to check out their sources. This holds true for producers at 60 Minutes and it holds true for anyone in the MSM whether they're working at the New York Times, the LA Times, the Wall Street Journal, American Prospect, The Weekly Standard, Nation, and the rest.
Some of you guys may do a great job of policing other bloggers, but the MSM reporters should not rely solely on your word that these sources or guys are on the up and up. They should do due diligence on them to find out who they are and make that clear to the reader. This is true not just of information provided by or gleaned from bloggers but for material that's received from any source. (And as an aside, some blogs are more clearly presented than others. When I was trying to sort through the various postings on blogs yesterday, it's clear that in some cases cutting and pasting material from one blog to the next, some clarity is lost on who the comments belong to that are posted. Some aren't as careful as others in presenting their information clearly so readers know where everything comes from and who it's attributed to. Of course, there are other sites where such material is presented in meticulous detail. And just because I suggest some bloggers are not are careful as others does not mean that I don't think this is true of the MSM as well.)
I believe this is true of bloggers as they make their way into the MSM as well. They have a responsibility to verify and validate their sources if they want to be taken seriously. (Obviously, extensive footnotes in many of the pieces that bloggers put up in response to the 60 Minutes piece suggests this is happening on some of the sites. And I do think Peter Wallsten did do a good job of portraying just how much bloggers where leading the discussion of the issues surrounding this piece after it aired.)
My point is that for ethical journalism to take place, those reporting and writing the pieces they put up online or in print or on the air need to verify and validate their sources.
> My Q: How do we know who writes the stuff in the MSM?
> My A: We don't, for the overwhelmingly large
> part. "Unnamed sources". Unbylined stories. Wire
> articles, written in the shadows of a huge organization,
> and printed uncritically. The Hithertofore widespread
> unavailability of documents. Tanked stories that never
> see the light of day. Talking heads presenting things
> they didn't do any journalism on themselves - who did
> Dan Rather's fact checking for him? Who worked on they
> story they are presenting? Is Katie Couric trapped
> entirely inside a leftist echo-chamber? Does she ever
> get to hear an alternative view? I could go on...the
> answer to your objection presents itself, I think.
See my comments above. I believe the MSM should be held responsible for doing responsible journalism. And there are discussions within the industry about how "unnamed sources" are overused. Poynter.org has some of this featured on its site. (Disclosure: I was a Poynter Ethics Fellow in 2001. I don't work for Poynter, but I do have this affiliation.)
> Intentionally spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty and
> doubt) without sufficient background and understanding
> of what is going on can't possibly be a good thing.
> To continue
> Your quote: "And what happens when this stuff gets into
> the mainstream, and it eventually turns out that the '60
> Minutes' documents were perfectly legitimate, but
> because there's been so much reporting about what's
> being reported, it has already taken on a life of its
> Great method of phrasing, Jeff: intentionally covering
> their backsides instead of taking a theoretical other
> case that you might intend to present (since it
> obviously ain't this one you are talking about, see
> below). You immediately and tacitly cast your vote (and
> thus stake your credibility, and by extension the
> credibility of a "Professor" from Emerson) that the
> documents are legit in this case, casting doubt on
> something of which you very likely have not actually
> read the details (or, of course, it could just be the
> fact that having studied ethics, you don't actually feel
> the need for them in your daily life - but perhaps this
> is too harsh a judgment to make, this _may_ yet be yet
> another example of journalistic bias, hitting home this
While the quote is accurate, my larger point was that one of the dangers of not doing responsible journalism and ensuring that sources are correct is that readers can end up being distracted from the larger point of the story. (That's the "life of its own" reference in the quote.) The volume and speed with which bloggers can address issues and call MSM journalists to account (a good thing) exacerbates this. So the story then becomes about whether fraudulent documents have been used rather than about whether President Bush served the time he committed to serve in the Air Force National Guard. If a news organization goes to press or air or online and wants to have the focus stay on the heart of its story, then it should make sure to vett its sources so that the story stays focused and doesn't get waylaid...so that they don't become the story instead.
What ends up happening, and the LAT and I talked about this as well, is that now the news organizations have the responsibility to go back and check out all of the information the bloggers have been posting to verify it so they can report responsibly about it. If they just reported the facts that the bloggers are putting up without fact checking them, then they're guilty of doing the same thing that the bloggers are criticizing 60 Minutes and others for in the first place.
> And, after a quick web search: shouldn't they have
> said 'Assistant Professor', since "Professor" it makes
> you sound more tenured than you actually are, according
> to the web site? Did you get a promotion and it's not
> reflected in the information on the website? Was it
> merely their simple mistake? Was it their ethical
> violation to make your argument look more informed?
> Or...something else? I think those are all perfectly
> valid questions, given the above statements, and the
> topic we are discussing.
Actually, I'm an associate professor at Emerson College and director of the graduate program in publishing and writing here. I teach courses here in magazine writing and professional ethics. But I also told Mr. Wallsten that I've written a weekly syndicated general ethics column called "The Right Thing" for the New York Times Syndicate since February of this year that succeeded a monthly business ethics column that I wrote of the same name from September 1998 to January 2004 for the Sunday Money and Business section.
I don't know why he referred to me as a professor in the piece, although it is a common thing that reporters do when quoting a professor, whether it is an adjunct or a full professor. I'm also not sure why some of the bloggers who wrote in response to my LA Times quotes that I teach journalism at Emerson. (I don't; that's a different department and easily checked on Emerson's website as well as my own).
> So, tell me, Mr. Seglin, all due ethical consideration,
> in light of this article and your very own fear, it
> seems a perfectly reasonable question to ask: what are
> _your_ political affiliations that may have some bearing
> on this? How did a paper on the other coast come to
> contact you _way_ out here? Why you?
This is a good question. First, in the column, I've written on topics that have yielded email from readers suggesting that I'm perpetuating the right-wing persecution of President Clinton. But then, I've also written on topics that have yielded distressed emails or calls from Vice President Cheney's office. My beat for the column was business ethics and is now general ethics, so I write about ethical dilemmas and find that whatever take I come up with causes different readers to question my politics from various sides of the argument. My main goal in the column and in my comments to the LAT was to raise the discussion of what the ideal ethical conduct might be and what the consequences might be if shortcuts are taken.
My full-time job is with Emerson College. Before I came here in 1999, I had a fellowship for a year at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard. And from 1989 until 1998, I was an editor (first a senior editor then an executive editor) at Inc. magazine in Boston (with a 6-month gap in 1993, when I was off working on a software startup). My relationship to the New York Times has never been as a full-time employee. I wrote the monthly column from 98-04 as a freelancer (writing a similar column for Fortune magazine in 2001) for which I got paid per column, and I now have a contract with the New York Times Syndicate to deliver a weekly column for which I get depending on how many papers carry the column.
I have no idea how Peter Wallsten found me or decided to call me. I have a personal website on geocities.com that's easy to find in a google search, as evidence by many of the bloggers who easily found me. On the site I describe who I am and have some links to my books on business ethics as well as a link to an essay I wrote for Poynter on why writing codes of ethics is not enough for newspapers. But to get answer to your question of how Mr. Wallsten found me, why he decided to call me, and why he decided to identify me only with Emerson, you'll have to ask him.
> After taking a breather, I encourage you to read the
> following [jrp - appended was the 68 point review of
> the available information on the documents], maybe
> printing it out and taking it with some camomile will
> help. You tell me if it will 'turn out' that the 60
> minutes documents will be legitimate. If you feel lazy,
> I can cobble together the further sources.
A gentleman named Frank Brown and I have been emailing back and forth since yesterday and he has shared much of this information with me and answered questions as I've had them. As I mentioned above, he among others has been very civil in his correspondence and I've shared with him a variation on what I've shared with you above.
I think this answers your questions. Feel free to follow-
up if you'd like.
Thank you very much for alerting me to this valuable post. However, I'm reminded of a sham of rather a long time ago--during the Army-McCarthy Hearings of (don't hold me to the exact year) 1954(?). Eisenhower was furious with Joe McCarthy about the tenor and substance of McCarthy's questioning of Gen. Stevens--later of West Point Pepperill and something Stevens (memory's gone here)--a linens mfg. firm. One of McCarthy's aides along with Bobby Kennedy and Roy Cohen was a Daniel Shine of Boca Raton, FL. It was discovered that Mr. Shine displayed in his office a photo of himself shaking hands with a prominent general of the time (may have been Walker of the later John Birch Society fame, can't remember). Problem was, however, that Shine's head had been professionally pasted onto the body of the hand-shaker. Bear in mind that Shine HAD met, HAD talked to, this general; but he hadn't managed to get an actual picture of himself with the great man. The media at the time accomplished Shine's utter discreditation, discrediting simultaneously, of course, Sen. McCarthy.
This is the forgery-issue in a nutshell, backwards. Rather contends that even if the docs are fakes, they're real because he somehow KNOWS they're real. Shine wasn't a journalist preserving a purported accuracy-ethic of the free press and wasn't shouting from the rooftops that this picture proved his association with the general. It was a symbol, a talisman. Yet he was ruined by the MSM of the time because a "forgery" hung in his office.
If Rather's been discredited yet, I certainly haven't heard about it. As Scarborough elicited tonight from apparently very magnanimous MSM reps, Rather must still be unconvinced of the inauthenticity, thus hesitant about pulling back from the bogus story.
If the issue persists beyond tomorrow's show, more of the MSM than Rather & CBS are guilty of far more than unethical conduct, considering that admissions of negligence haven't halted or discredited the Dems' Fortunate Son ads. (Not that the continued issue is hurting W.)
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