I love everyone having access to discuss and expand upon the traditional journalism as we have seen over the past few years. However there is a dark side to this freedom that results in inaccurate or wildly theoretical opinion being presented and built upon as fact. No greater example of this can be seen than with the recent explosion in the blogosphere of damning but questionable articles concerning the Plame case.
The result of this situation is that it makes it that much harder to find actual facts when searching out the truth of just about any political event. I have spent hours yesterday and today trying to piece together what I can factually about what exactly was said and ‘proven’ and I have seen a lot of just plain wrong information stated factually. Then someone else takes what was posted on one blog and uses it as a basis for their writing on another, not bothering to check out the facts first, and we end up with the electronic equivalent of the telephone game!
Unfortunately, while most bloggers may realize this and just find it an anomaly that we must accept while ‘getting out the truth’, many of the people who read these blogs and do not bother checking facts and understanding that we are many times just expressing opinion. Instead they use the information presented as a source of factual news information. And once someone gets something in their heads as a fact, especially one that reinforces their opinions and predispositions, it’s almost impossible to change their views when we find out that the information is not completely accurate.
For example, the story that came out the other day was that Fitzgerald stated in a brief that Libby testified that Bush declassified some information in order to repudiate the false claims by Wilson regarding Iraq’s attempt to obtain nuclear material from Niger. As stated by the Washington Post:
In the new filing, he [Fitzgerald] did not allege that Bush authorized that disclosure [of Plame’s role at the CIA], and he said Bush was “unaware of the role” that Libby, then Cheney’s chief of staff, played in discussing her name with a number of reporters.
However, because many people do not really understand the nuances of the legal play going on and what this may or may not mean to the investigation, we are seeing people now stating, as fact, that Bush authorized Libby to release Plame’s name and function at the CIA to the press. This has not been proven. I’m still trying to find if this is even suggested. Yet, now thousands of people now believe this to be a factual event and are calling (once again) for Bush to resign.
Is it true? Well, I don’t know. I don’t see the proof of it yet but I’m not suggesting that there is no way this could be true once the facts are eventually presented to us. But as long as the case can be made and presented in a way that people will believe it to be true, it will be damaging. It will place information into the heads of many and they will regard it as fact whether it turns out to be true or not.
Many bloggers wish to be taken seriously. Many want to be seen as the new media, replacing the tired and poorly functioning apparatus of the national news media as we compete for presenting clear unbiased information to the public. However, in a zeal to be the first or most sensational ‘reporters’ of information, many are stepping across the real need for responsible journalism and ensuring that the information we present to people are factual. And the real trouble is instead of policing ourselves, we are relying upon the readers to determine if what we are presenting are opinions or facts.
We, as bloggers, MUST to a better job of vetting our information, of ensuring that we present facts when writing as we are being factual and when we are writing opinion that we identify it as such. Unless we do this, blogging as an industry will become nothing more than a scoffed at medium that will never be taken seriously. Too many people will find that what we are presenting as facts are not and what one bad blogger may do will then be attributed to all bloggers in general.
As one of those people who want their articles to be taken seriously when presented as such, I call upon all bloggers to try to police their own words and make sure that the line between fact and opinion is clearly defined, not just in this case and by liberal writers but by conservative and independents as well. It is only when we can be taken seriously that our industry will flourish and rival the trust that many still give to the traditional news mediums.
This is my opinion.