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Journalistic Standards in Web News Sites: Are They Adequate?

By Mendax Veritas in Media
Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 11:20:56 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

I know a number of people who now seem to get their daily news almost entirely from "new media" sources such as Salon, Slashdot, F***edCompany, and the Drudge Report. These are often sources of interesting information, but in terms of journalistic professionalism, they fall decidedly short of traditional news sources.

Salon, of course, is also staffed by experienced journalists, but they have published a number of pieces that were questionable in terms of either factuality or relevance, such as the infamous "Henry Hyde had an affair thirty years ago!" cover story of 1998, which was apparently factual enough but was irrelevant to the question of whether President Clinton should be impeached for lying under oath. No responsible news source ran this story until Salon broke it, though it had been floating around for quite some time. Although I personally have no respect for Rep. Hyde or his variety of fundamentalist hypocrisy, I suspect that this story appeared first in Salon because the real journalists who run real newspapers simply had better sense than Salon's editor, whose political partisanship won out over whatever editorial skills he possesses.

FC editor Pud does not pretend to be a journalist, and openly describes his stories as as "rumors". At least he's being honest. (Also, his rumors usually turn out to be true, which counts for something in the credibility department.)

I know K5ers are tired of Slashdot bashing, but really, Slashdot is an interesting case in this regard. Since it has a paid staff of "editors" who judge the merit of all submitted stories, one might be forgiven for thinking that these editors had some journalistic background that would enable them to make those judgements well. As far as I can tell, however, the closest that Slashdot has to a "real journalist" is Jon Katz, who posts only his own stories, not user submissions. None of Slashdot's other editors are journalists, and it shows. The simplest fact-checking is not done; even hyperlinks in the stories are often not validated. Consequently, the most blatant hoaxes sometiems reach Slashdot's front page, only to be followed a few hours later by either an "Oops! We did it again" update, or silent removal of the story in question along with all of the inevitable comments saying "This is a hoax" and "Don't you guys ever check anything before posting it?"

Additionally, there is a valid concern about ego-based censorship at Slashdot. Generally, Rob, Jeff, and most of the other editors are above this sort of thing. Allegations of it crop up from time to time, though, especially in connection with editor Michael Sims, who has been accused of misusing his administrative powers to down-moderate even high-scoring comments to -1 if he didn't like them. Even away from Slashdot, he attracts allegations of misconduct. One recent striking example is Seth Finkelstein's article on the apparent death of the censorware.org site, which Mr. Finkelstein attributes directly to Mr. Sims' out-of-control ego. (Read the article for yourself for details.) This particular example has nothing to do with Slashdot, but it bears on Slashdot to the extent that we may wonder about the integrity of a site that allows such a person on its editorial staff.

Of course, examples of sloppy reporting and editorial ineptitude can be found in the worlds of print and TV journalism as well; it isn't my point simply that "traditional journalism" is good and "new-media journalism" is bad. But traditional news channels at least try to maintain decent journalistic standards, and, more importantly, know what those standards are, thanks to having editors who are trained and experienced in real-world news reporting. They aren't right all the time, by any means, but as sources of accurate information, they are vastly superior to "new-media" sources such as Slashdot and the Drudge Report.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


What do you think of Web journalism?
o It sucks. Having your own Web server doesn't make you a journalist. 13%
o It sucks, but "traditional journalism" sucks too. 32%
o Some of it's good. You have to read a variety of sites to get different perspectives. 36%
o It's great. "Journalistic standards" are BS anyway. 8%
o It's great. The mainstream press won't print the truth. 9%

Votes: 115
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Slashdot
o Salon
o Slashdot [2]
o F***edComp any
o Drudge Report
o "Henry Hyde had an affair thirty years ago!"
o Seth Finkelstein's article
o censorware .org
o Also by Mendax Veritas

Display: Sort:
Journalistic Standards in Web News Sites: Are They Adequate? | 88 comments (85 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
A lot of newspapers suck (2.00 / 4) (#1)
by FeersumAsura on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 05:00:02 AM EST

My local rag is terrible. It makes mistakes, has more typsos that correct words and uses the influx of Albanian refugees as proof readers. Recently we saw this headline "Car went on fire". The piss poor NWE can be seen here

I'm so pre-emptive I'd nuke America to save time.
WTF is "Drudge Report"? (2.50 / 4) (#2)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 05:04:01 AM EST

Yeah, sure, I browsed into it, but I see no "About" or "Mission" page or anything of the sort that tells me what it's supposed to be (and not merely what it actually is, which I should be able to deduce from the site).


Read this speech by Matt Drudge (3.80 / 5) (#3)
by skim123 on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 05:12:42 AM EST

This is a little dated (a speech given in '98) but it explains how the DrugeReport site got started, it's aim, etc., etc.

I frequent the Drudge Report fairly regularly myself. If you were to ask me to describe it I would say it is a fairly right-wing site that posts links to breaking stories and rumors that Matt Drudge is informed of... Most of the links to articles are scare-type articles or freak show articles, like: "Wisconsin man kills wife, cooks, and eats her." There's a lot of celebrity-type articles, like the latest movie returns, divorces of stars, etc. The nice thing is if you like any of that (political/celebrity/freak articles) the Druge Report gets them way before traditional media gets their hands on it... In fact, there's been some tech stories posted there which beat out /. or k5 or any other source (like CNN or whatnot) by several hours.

(FYI, the Drudge Report site gained its fame by being the first source to break the Monica Lewinsky faux pas.)

Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but a terrible master.
PT Barnum

[ Parent ]
I agree (2.88 / 9) (#6)
by maketo on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 07:28:20 AM EST

Unlike real analysis based on author's knowledge of the facts, situation and wast experience in the field, today's web journalism is usualy work of selfproclaimed geniouses and/or geeks giving us their two cents on the issue. Some of them cant even write or spell their mother language properly....
agents, bugs, nanites....see the connection?
Experienced Journalists vs Readable Journalists (3.50 / 6) (#7)
by tetsuo on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 07:30:34 AM EST

One of the biggest turnoffs to salon, for me, IS these experienced journalists.

Every article is them masturbating with their english/journalism degree and attempting to force profound complicated statements. It drives me nuts. Yes, it's readable. No, it's not intelligent or witty when it's forced. Yes it's sometimes a little thought provoking. But so are the back of shampoo bottles when I'm on the can.

Most people prefer their news in an easily digestable form. By that do I mean dumbed down? No. The news still serves its purpose (to inform) but without serving itself. There's nothing dumb about that. There's no reason information should remain in the hands of those capable of decyphering 2 pages of literary bloat.

Haven't noticed any problems with this.. (3.00 / 3) (#12)
by Peeteriz on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 10:11:04 AM EST

and neither has anybody that I know in meatspace who reads k5, slashdot or knows thechnology in general. In fact, i do not even recall a single article that would be written in too complex language, and should be re-written in simpler form.
Maybe the average techie differs a lot here from the average news-reader? Your guess is as good as mine.

[ Parent ]
My guess is ... (2.00 / 1) (#23)
by tetsuo on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 11:59:02 AM EST

... that you're spot on.

When I compare stories written by professional journalists in my local post to the ones written on Salon (and some other sites), there is an obvious difference.

And it's mainly the audience they're pandering to. Joe sixpack doens't want to hear a Dennis Millerian referential discourse on why Bush's tax cut is like <insert obscure historical incident>. They want facts, figures, and opinions from professionals, not self-serving prose and mumbo-jumbo.

But hey, this is who they want to target, and no one's making me read it. I just think they're making a mistake by alienating a lot of folk through their style.

I've been known to underestimate people before though ...

[ Parent ]
Salmon Magazine (2.00 / 1) (#28)
by Beorn on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 01:32:26 PM EST

My two objections to Salon is their level of headline whoring, (annoyingly predictable "controversial" question phrasings), and the fact that despite being one of the first major net magazines, they still don't want to use offsite links.

I don't mind that most of their stories doesn't interest me, but the underuse of links in particular is a mortal sin. I prefer the hyperlink diarrhea of a Ken Layne at OJR to half-panicked attempts to herd your visitors in endless revenue-increasing circles.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]
[ Parent ]

journalism degree (3.50 / 2) (#39)
by Cats Eyes on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 03:20:10 PM EST

I'm just finishing off a journalism degree here in Canada and if those writers at salon are the intellectual masturbators you say they are then I hope to replace them.

I've been told that Canadian journalists are very well respected in the industry because we come very well trained.

Journalists need to understand their medium. If you're writing for the web, your audience will only stay with you as long as you make it interesting.

If you have a point then fucking make it and move on. Net users have a million better things to do than listen to some cryptic crap from some English major wanker.

I'm not saying that all "professional" journalist understand their role. A fellow student here told me outright that she didn't care if people understood here magazine piece. She just liked the sound of it. Let me tell you it was the most beautiful piece of garbage I've ever read.

Professional journalists are not the problem. The problem is that it's an easy job to get and it carries a lot of influence. And sometimes the wrong person get the public's ear and fills it with crap.

[ Parent ]

Read this four times then quit! --James Brown (4.00 / 3) (#54)
by rusty on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 01:15:19 AM EST

If you have a point then fucking make it and move on. Net users have a million better things to do than listen to some cryptic crap from some English major wanker.

Say that 200 times to every web journalist and we might have a lot better quality. :-) A few well-chosen links are worth a million words of backstory and exposition. What truly drives me nuts are the online news sites that never link to anything in the articles. What the hell is the point of being online, if you're not using the medium?

The state of a lot of the traditional media online reminds me of film at the turn of the last century. All films were basically stage plays on celluloid, because no one had yet quite got the hang of how the camera could be brought into the action, and used to help tell the story. They just set the camera up in the corner, put the actors onstage, and rolled.

We're still, even now, just starting to get an inkling of how this medium can be used. And I think the "real" news is catching on a lot slower than the upstarts are.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Dogme (none / 0) (#82)
by Robert Gormley on Fri Mar 09, 2001 at 10:36:31 AM EST

Sounds similar, but not quite the same, as Dogme 95's principles, re camera work

[ Parent ]
Michael Sims bit is worrying (4.56 / 16) (#9)
by streetlawyer on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 08:39:24 AM EST

Old "jellicle" had always been marked down by me as the worst of the slashdot editors, but Finkelstein's essay seems to suggest that he's an actively destructive piece of work. Poking around the archives of the cyberia-l list reveals some pretty disgraceful behaviour on his part, too. And the fact that he's publicly slagging off other slashdot editors (with statements which to my untrained eye look actionable unless true) is something that hardly inspires confidence, as does his practice of making wild accusations and then shrugging them off with "On the other hand, I, for one, am not particularly interested in answering questions right now."

Nobody who had come through a journalism course would ever behave in such an unprofessional manner (or at least, they should know better). Given that, to be charitable, different versions of the truth seem to abound in the presence of Sims, I think that this part of the article goes well over the boundary between "that's what you expect from the Web" and "this is unacceptable, web or not". Although their grammar is often a bit comical, and they could stand to check a few facts, Malda and Bates have a good instinctive grasp of journalistic standards. Perhaps they (or the always excellent Robin Miller) could have a word with Sims.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever

Michael isn't the only one I worry about... (3.75 / 4) (#14)
by OriginalGTT on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 10:25:16 AM EST

Malda and Bates have a good instinctive grasp of journalistic standards

If by journalistic standards you mean "inflammatory headlines that have little or nothing to do with the actual story".

Have we forgotten things like this?

I'm NOT on your level. Stay there, and I will stay up here where morals are high, and the air is sweet
[ Parent ]

Bad Example... (3.00 / 2) (#17)
by Rihan on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 10:57:45 AM EST

Hotmail about to collapse under load
Posted by nik on Tuesday August 01, @02:28PM

What's your point? This story was posted by neither Taco nor Hemos.

With that said, I do agree that many of the /. editors (Taco and Hemos included) take editorial license from time to time (!) and express their own inflammatory opinions of stories. You have to remember that stories posted on /. are controlled by the editors and they have the right to express their options if they so desire. The problem lies in their credibility.

If they are running /. under the banner of "this is a personal site with links" then more power to them; tell us how bad Mirco$oft is and that Linux will rule the world. But, don't complain when you aren't taken seriously as a "real news" site. Don't complain if you don't garner respect from the journalistic community (in the broader sense of the word, not necessarily a card carrying member of the Press).

If I was running the site I would not share my opinions in the body of the story. If I had something to say I would post a comment just like the rest of the ./ masses. But that's just me.

Auto Desperation Warning System Enabled
Desperation Score: 307

[ Parent ]

Actually (3.50 / 2) (#21)
by OriginalGTT on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 11:41:41 AM EST

That particular link was Streetlawyer specific.

But allow me to embellish my point.

Taco is the owner of the site. He sets the standard for what gets posted, and how it gets posted. He is also the boss of all the other editors. When a headline goes up like that, it is his responsibility if it is incorrect. Unfortunately, Taco does not read his own site (he has stated this before, and said it to me in person at LWE this year). This leaves the reader to wonder how much integrity there is on the site as a whole. There's a reason that I don't read /. except when there is something pointed out to me by somebody else.

If you would like to see some interesting headlines, do a search on /. for cmdr taco and microsoft. Quite entertaining.

I'm NOT on your level. Stay there, and I will stay up here where morals are high, and the air is sweet
[ Parent ]

Michael's allegations are not true (3.83 / 6) (#62)
by jamiemccarthy on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 08:17:11 PM EST

streetlawyer mentions "statements which to my untrained eye look actionable unless true."

Michael Sims' statements on censorware.org regarding myself and my colleagues at the Censorware Project are not true.

[ Parent ]

Not true, seconded, what Jamie said (5.00 / 2) (#80)
by Seth Finkelstein on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 11:01:53 PM EST

What Jamie said.

I have never attempted to have Michael Sims sued for libel (or anything else)

Possibly he is confused from when he provoked someone in the UK, and got threatened with a libel suit in return. But that nothing to do with Censorware Project or anyone associated with it. In fact, I even wrote a long public letter arguing that Michael Sims SHOULD NOT be sued. This incident was mentioned on http://www.ntk.net/?back=2001/now0112.txt

"The CYBER-RIGHTS-UK mailing list isn't the first place you'd expect to find noted jurist LAURENCE GODFREY re-emerging onto the Net - best known for enthusiastically advocating his cyber-right to prosecute cases of alleged online defamation [see NTKs passim]. A few of the regulars mentioned this and, inevitably, one listmember, Michael Sims, took it a teensy bit further. Hours after his uh, accusation, Sims reposted an e-mail, apparently sent from Mr Godfrey (and headed "CONFIDENTIAL"), requiring a full retraction and apology for the, uh, vivid terminology. Ominously, no such undertaking was received by the list. Mr Godfrey may well, as he is inclined to, enter into legal proceedings against Mr Sims. Indeed, it has been intimated that redress may be sought against Sims' employer too. This does not bode well for world peace: Michael is editor of the "Your Rights Online" section - on Slashdot."

-- Seth Finkelstein
[ Parent ]
Factual error (4.14 / 7) (#10)
by Anonymous 242 on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 09:37:28 AM EST

FWIW, Robin Miller (roblimo) of /. is a professional journalist. He had plenty of experience in the IT rag industry before /. was even a glimmer in Taco's eye.

He once was... (2.00 / 2) (#22)
by Woodblock on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 11:44:56 AM EST

roblimo used to be at /., but I think he has since moved to Newsforge and is editor-in-chief there.
-- Real computer scientists don't use computers.
[ Parent ]
both (2.00 / 1) (#47)
by Delirium on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 08:03:15 PM EST

AFAIK he's still editor-in-chief of Andover, which includes both Newsforge and Slashdot.

[ Parent ]
Thanks... (3.00 / 2) (#25)
by Mendax Veritas on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 12:09:38 PM EST

...for the correction. --mv

[ Parent ]
Er... (2.50 / 2) (#30)
by trhurler on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 01:36:42 PM EST

I'm not sure working for IT rags counts as "journalism." I mean, their job is pretty much to promote commercial products so they can get advertising and to blather as though they know computers, even though they could make tons more money in the computer field if they actually knew what they were talking about. This is why idiots like John Dvorak write columns in which they say things that anyone competent knows are bullshit - a variation on the old "those who can't, teach" saying, sort of. (Pop quiz: have you EVER seen a Dvorak prediction that turned out to be true? I haven't. And he's typical of the breed.)

'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Robin Miller actually impresses me (3.00 / 2) (#32)
by Anonymous 242 on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 01:46:26 PM EST

Well, maybe not for his editorial brilliance, but the articles he actually writes are usually very insightful. He did a piece on Linux 2.4 for Open magazine a couple months ago that was just brilliant. The column was about his response to questions about when he was going to upgrade to kernel 2.4. His response was basically what I've got loaded (2.2) works and does what I need it to, so why should I upgrade?

Of course, writing skills imply absolutely nothing about editing skills. His elevation to editor might very well be a case of being promoted to one's level of incompetence.

[ Parent ]

Writing and Editing Skills (3.80 / 5) (#66)
by roblimo on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 01:06:53 AM EST

Actually, beyond a certain level of experience, writing and editing skills are much the same. I don't claim to be great at either one. I'm just one of few people around who can both construct coherent paragraphs quickly *and* understand enough tech-speak to translate what programmers, engineers, and scientists tell me into everyday English.

My background is not primarily in IT rags, but in "alternative" and, to a lesser degree, "mainstream" journalism. I have written hundreds of articles for the Baltimore Sun (daily) and Baltimore City Paper (alternative weekly). I have also written for trade mags - not necessarily IT - aimed at audiences ranging from doctors to mechanical engineers to hotel managers, and have done more private "white paper" reports than I care to think about because they are easy to do and pay extremely well.

I have also written dozens of Penthouse Forum letters (no, most of them are *not* real) and a bit of mystery fiction and other kinds of short stories under various names, but not since 1985, which is when I started concentrating on non-fiction.

Editing? I don't have any real credentials; I did a short stint as a copy editor on the Arizona Daily Star long enough ago that the average K5 reader wasn't born yet, and have filled in as editor for a few small publications, served as "prelaunch" editorial consultant for a local shopper paper (that js still following the policies I set and is doing very well), and recently helped start an IT industry mag that can't have my name on its masthead for conflict of interest reasons even though the people who publish it would love to have me more closely associated with them.

I don't really *like* editing; I would rather just write. I ended up as editor in chief at Andover (now OSDN,) because there was no one else everyone could agree to trust with the job. I am not entirely comfortable being responsible for a majority of the world's Linux and Open Source news. But, as was pointed out to me by a whole bunch of people when I was agonizing over whether I should accept the position, the very fact that I worry about my fitness for the work is one of my prime qualifications.

Aside from administrative crap (which I handle reasonably well but would really rather not deal with at all, given a choice), most of what I do is protect Slashdot, NewsForge and the other OSDN sites from interference by outside parties like Microsoft's legal department, the MPAA and RIAA, advertiers who want us to write glowing reviews of their products even if they suck, and all the other evil influences that keep so many IT prublications from being credible.

Slashdot authors make mistakes and are often inflammatory, but dammit, at least they make *honest* mistakes and admit them, and if they feel strongly about something and say so, it's their own hearts speaking, not words put in their mouths by PR drones or even Larry Augustine, who has been admirably "hands off" with regard to site content and who I will jam just as hard and fast as anyone else if he tries to interfere with what we write.

Bias? You bet! Tina Gasperson, who writes for NewsForge, has a bunch of kids and lives in Tampa, FL. Michael Sims is single (but has a nice girlfriend) and lives in Staten Island, NY. The two of them have totally different perspectives from which they write, and I am gald they have distinct personalities that show through in their work. My job is not to shut down those personalities, but to make sure we have a *mix* of people writing so that many different viewpoints get espoused and stories that one might not find interesting get covered by another.

Tim Lord - timothy on Slashdot - has a journalism degree and wrote PR for Dell (a job he hated) before we snatched him. Grant Gross, NewsForge managing editor and all-around cool dude, has a journalism degree and spent 10 years as a reporter and editor for small midwest dailies before he jumped online as content editor for techies.com, then came to work for us.

Linux.com's new editor, Simon Hayes, was a book editor at O'Reilly until he came to OSDN. Jamie McCarthy and Cliff Wood are both programmers who now work for us full-time -- as programmers -- and write part-time. NewsForge columnist Julie Bresnick (you should check out her cool weekly bios of Open Source developers - hot stuff!) has also written for Soap Opera Digest.

Some of our people are Republicans, some are Democrats, some are Libertarians, some like football, some like basketball, some hate sports (and politics) altogether. We have staff people and freelance contributors (literally) all over the world. Slashdot book reviewer Duncan Lawrie was posting for a while from an expedition ship in Antarctic waters. (My next geographic goal is to get someone to write for us from the International Space Station. And we'll make it happen sooner or later, believe me.)

Editing is mostly managing, and managing writers is much the same as managing programmers or artists: the best way to do it is to hire a good mix of good people, tell them what's expected from them, make sure they have the tools they need to do their jobs, and get the hell out of their way.

Now and then someone will come to me and ask if a story is going to get us sued, so would I please approve it before it runs.
I have nothing against getting sued, but, dammit, as the official receiver of DMCA complaints for OSDN, I want to make sure it's for a good reason, not over something stupid.

I also worry about budgets a lot. This is the crappiest part of my job.

I could probably make at least as much money freelancing as I do on salary with OSDN, and I sure as hell could make more if I went back to full-time limo driving (I own my own) and part-time freelancing, but I rather enjoy my coworkers -- they're a good bunch -- and our readers, even when they're at their most obnoxious (and believe me, we have many obnoxious readers and you know who you are).

Would I do this job for free? The reporting and writing part, sure. The managing and budget control part? No bleeping way!

I have no idea why I'm typing all of this and running on so long; maybe the pint of bourbon I've poured down over the last hour or two has something to do with it. But I have to go to bed now. A story will run on Slashdot around 7 a.m. EST that is going to get us lots of heat, probably including a DMCA "cease and desist" letter from the MPAA or their minions, and I need to be wide-awake and prepared to handle the flak when it starts to come in.

- Trout Fishing in America Robin
(confirmed Richard Brautigan fan)

[ Parent ]
Thanks (3.50 / 2) (#68)
by Mendax Veritas on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 01:52:58 AM EST

Thanks for the detailed inside view of your work at Slashdot/OSDN.

I was not aware of your or Timothy's credentials before. Then again, perhaps it's not just coincidence that you two are my favorite Slashdot editors; you're the ones least likely to post inaccurate stories or inflammatory headlines, and your background in journalism probably has a lot to do with that. I apologize for not singling you two out specifically in the story that started all this discussion. The best excuse I can offer is that I was more interested in the contrasts between web sites and traditional news sources than in their similarities, and I was trying to keep the story concise.


[ Parent ]

is it possible (3.00 / 4) (#34)
by OriginalGTT on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 02:24:22 PM EST

for you to say anything without spitting bile?

You obviously have a lot of desk rage. Have you ever considered a new career?

I'm NOT on your level. Stay there, and I will stay up here where morals are high, and the air is sweet
[ Parent ]

Not just IT rags (3.00 / 2) (#53)
by rusty on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 01:05:14 AM EST

Robin's also been editor and copyeditor at several small dailies, I believe. He lurks here from time to time, so maybe he can fill us in on the names and places. I know he's got work experience in the "traditional media," though.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]
Its true... (2.00 / 1) (#49)
by omegadave on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 12:05:19 AM EST

roblimo /is/ a professional journalist. i know this because he visited my LUG (NLUG in nashville), february 28 and gave a talk about all the stuff he's done and how linux relates to his life. turns out he's been doing writing about computers and other stuff for years. he's quite a fascinating person, i really like him.

[ Parent ]
It all makes sense now (4.50 / 12) (#11)
by hardburn on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 09:45:45 AM EST

It's intresting you bring up Michael Sims, who I have personaly witnessed displaying some disturbing behavoir in an e-mail group.

About 8 months ago, on the freenet-chat mailing list, the topic drifted into a bit Evolution vs. Creation debate. It was big, ugly, and wasted many people's bandwidith who wanted the flamers to just shut up.

The aftermath of that debate was enormous as far as freenet development was concerned. The lists were reorginized, and -chat was specificly set aside for offtopic discussion. Most of the developers stoped reading -chat.

Now I get to why this relates to Michael Sims. It turns out he was sitting there on -chat reading the whole time (he might have also helped get Ian Clarke this Slashdot interview about a year ago). I did not know about his reputation at the time, but what he said does not help that repuation.

As we were discussing what to do about the recent offtopic discussion, Michael chiped in his answer: Ban the creationists, because they are the problem. As you probably know, Freenet is very anti-censorship (thats the point of Freenet, after all). Even the evolutionists of the debate could not say that baning the creationists was not censorship. If you're going to ban the creationists, you must also ban the evolutionists in the debate, since they share equal blame.

Michael persisted in his opinon. He noted how he was once on a mailing list that delt with free-speech issues, aparently a very good group, too. Nazis invaded the group. Any attempt to ban them would be met with a cry of hypocracy. Within a few months, the group was torn to shreads. Michael used this incident to justify banning the creationists and warned that if we did not, they would tear the Freenet lists to shreads.

We didn't go that route. The lists were reorginized so that -chat was specificly ment to be offtopic, as well as making a -tech list (which was later merged back into -devel, since the two overlapped too much) and a -support list. Michael insisted that none of this would help.

That was almost a year ago. -chat is still offtopic, and many developers still don't read it. However, forboding warnings of fragmenting the group have not proven to have any basis.

I didn't know Michael Sims had that reputation. But it all makes sense now.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

Double negitives (1.00 / 1) (#13)
by hardburn on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 10:18:31 AM EST

Just reread my post and found it to be filled with horriable double negitives.

Even the evolutionists of the debate could not say that baning the creationists was not censorship.

Better said as: Even the evolutionists of the debate said that banning the creationists was censorship.

However, forboding warnings of fragmenting the group have not proven to have any basis.

Should be more like: However, forboding warnings of fragmenting the group have proven baseless.

Sorry about this, but I wanted my meaning to be clear.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
Re: double negatives (none / 0) (#42)
by janra on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 06:37:24 PM EST

(Ok, so this is completely offtopic...)

'not impossible' means something rather different than 'possible'

I would read 'Even the evolutionists of the debate could not say that banning the creationists was not censorship.' as 'much as the evolutionists wished the creationists would shut up, they couldn't ban them because it would be censorship and they don't agree with censorship' whereas 'Even the evolutionists of the debate said that banning the creationists was censorship.' I would read as the simple statement of fact that it is - the same basic meaning but a whole different flavour.

I'm not sure which one you originally meant, but double negatives aren't automatically bad or wrong.

Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
Possibly.. (3.00 / 2) (#50)
by quantum pixie on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 12:09:16 AM EST

'not impossible' means something rather different than 'possible'

No, it means the same thing. 'Impossible' means 'not possible', so 'not impossible would mean 'not not possible'.

Free qpt!
[ Parent ]
janra is right (4.00 / 1) (#52)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 01:00:21 AM EST

not impossible' means something rather different than 'possible'
No, it means the same thing. 'Impossible' means 'not possible', so 'not impossible would mean 'not not possible'.

That's not how natural language works.

"Not impossible" typically is used to mean "possible but unlikely", while "possible" is just "possible".

"Possible" is interpreted relative to a scale of possibility, which ranges from the absolutely certain at the higher end to the absolutely impossible at the lower. For many words that have to do with such scales, AFAIK in all languages, this effect happens. While under most theories they are strictly synonymous, by choosing "not impossible" over "possible" the speaker draws attention to the lower end of the scale.

[ Parent ]

There's really no grounds for argument (3.50 / 2) (#56)
by quantum pixie on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 04:47:51 AM EST

You can mean whatever you like by "impossible" or "possible" or any other word, and I have no real grounds for disagreeing with you except on preference. However, logically, "not impossible" and "possible" are equivalent.

If you wish to argue, it will have to be on logical grounds, or the discussion is meaningless.

Free qpt!
[ Parent ]
it's true that logically they are the same (4.33 / 3) (#57)
by janra on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 11:55:18 AM EST

Logically, 'not impossible' and 'possible' are the same, yes. But the obvious meaning of a phrase and the connotations given by word choice make a rather significant difference in how a statement is interpreted by the reader.

'not unintelligent' implies 'not dumb, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer'; 'she wasn't about to not do (x)' carries an implicit 'of course' (and a funny look from others if you don't agree ;-) - which 'she was about to do (x)' doesn't); 'couldn't refuse to' implies an obligation to do something whether or not they wanted to (whether that obligation is internally or externally imposed) while 'agreed to' implies no such thing.

Word choice - including double negatives - is an amazingly powerful tool for writers. Of course, accidental double negatives cause logical crossed eyes in your readers as they try to figure out if you meant to say it that way, it's sarcasm, or it's a mistake :-)

Discuss the art and craft of writing
That's the problem with world domination... Nobody is willing to wait for it anymore, work slowly towards it, drink more and enjoy the ride more.
[ Parent ]
I didn't expect this! (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by hardburn on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 02:22:01 PM EST

Wow, a lot more people responded to that then I thought.

OK, I believe that the goal of any language is to get your point across and that strict rules for grammer in any language can often be destructive to that end. If you need to communicate in a such a way that requires you to break the rule of your language, go right ahead and do so.

When I proposed the rewriting of the orginal post, it was because I believed I had not properly communicated and would confuse many people. I guess I was wrong. Oh well.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
logic and natural language (5.00 / 2) (#60)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 03:52:41 PM EST

You can mean whatever you like by "impossible" or "possible" or any other word, and I have no real grounds for disagreeing with you except on preference.

But I'm not talking about meaning "whatever I like", as in picking some arbitrary interpretation for the word "possible", say, "doglike". I'm talking about a widespread difference in the interpretation of "impossible" and "not impossible" that you can recreate among most speakers of pretty much all languages. Thus, I'm about a fact about the interpretation of natural languages.

However, logically, "not impossible" and "possible" are equivalent.

Depends on your logic. This is not a God-given equivalence-- it follows from your choice of logic.

If you take them to denote predicates, they are equivalent. If you take them to denote fuzzy ranges in a scale that goes from the impossible through the unlikely, passes by the likely, and ends in the certain then there is no reason in principle that they have to be logically equivalent. (This kind of theory has been proposed for some kinds of vague predicate, e.g. "tall").

If you wish to argue, it will have to be on logical grounds, or the discussion is meaningless.

Ultimately, an argument has to be made in logical grounds, but there are plenty of nonlogical shades of meaning which are not controversial and thus are acceptable in an argument when one is not after the most anal degree of precision.

Natural language does not work on logic alone. There is plenty about how natural language is used to convey meaning which is not logical, in the strict sense of the term. Which doesn't mean "unsystematic", "illogical" or anything of the sort; just that some aspects if the interpretation of language don't have to do with truth conditions (which is what logic deals with), but with other things (like speaker intentions, presuppositions, activity, etc.), and make distinctions among expressions that logic may or may not be amendable to express. The prime example is the theory of conversational implicature as initiated by Paul Grice.

In the end, logic only captures a particular part of the usage of language for communication. Not taking into account the other parts will distort your vision of language.

[ Parent ]

Or ... denotation and connotation (none / 0) (#88)
by dnaworks on Tue Mar 20, 2001 at 01:14:29 PM EST

Denotation = logical meaning.
Connotation = implied meaning, overtone, whatever.

Just becase things may be *logically* equivalent does not mean that they have the same meaning (as the latter is derived from the person hearing it). Words (and phrases, such as double negatives vs. 'positives') have more than one, purely logical 'value'; to suggest otherwise would indicate that we are wasting our time not using 'goodspeak'.

Cast off preconceptions before responding
[ Parent ]

Stop reading uninformed "grammar" books. (none / 0) (#46)
by Estanislao Martínez on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 07:44:01 PM EST

Look at this pair of sentences:
  1. The dogs, despite their training, could avoid attacking the firendly intruder, yet they did attack him.
  2. The dogs, despite their training, could not avoid not attacking the friendly intruder, yet they did attack him.
The second one is contradictory, while the first one is perfectly fine. This despite the fact that they differ only in the "double negation".

The two sentences simply mean different things, and your original examples also differ subtly in meaning from your offered rewrites.

So next time you feel that you've done something wrong by putting "double negatives", bollocks. Double negatives are perfectly valid, and people in general have very keen intuitions on when they are appropriate.

[ Parent ]

Free speech and spam (2.50 / 2) (#61)
by jellicle on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 04:52:46 PM EST

During the great creationist flamewar, I suggested removing the creationists from the list because they were being purposely disruptive - 20-50 messages per day of pure crap, even in the face of many people asking them to stop, such that the list was not fulfilling its intended purpose - no conversation could occur due to the noise present. Alternative suggestions from others included moderating the list, setting up another email list and several other things which I don't recall anymore.

I regarded the suggestion as very similar to an anti-spam measure, much as many mailing lists disallow posts from addresses that aren't subscribed to the list so that random spam doesn't get sent to the list. The list moderators didn't want to do that. So? Fine. It's their choice, nothing wrong with that. And as I predicted, the list was destroyed for its conversational purpose, much as the unmoderated parts of Usenet are destroyed today. That's the list the Freenet people wanted to run; I thought they wanted something different when I made my suggestion.

I absolutely refuse to describe "stopping other people from abusing and destroying a conversational forum" as censorship. No one was stopping the *three* people who were sending dozens of messages per day from simply emailing each other and continuing their discussion privately. No one was stopping them from setting up a list - or subscribing to one - devoted to creationism and talking there. The only question was whether they were going to destroy the Freenet mailing list with creationist posts that were completely unrelated to Freenet.

I'm as staunchly anti-censorship as anyone you're likely to meet. One person I know describes me as a "free speech absolutist" - he doesn't mean it as a compliment, but oh well. But I think even pro-free speech people need to recognize that there are trade-offs everywhere. Will there be more and better speech in the world if choice A or choice B is chosen? That's the metric I use. It's the same theory behind copyright: the idea that by limiting speech ( making copies of works), you actually promote the development of more works. You don't have to agree with that trade-off as it is presently implemented in law to see that the idea behind the trade-off could have merit.

In any spam or abuse of a forum which relates, in any way, to freedom of speech, this issue will come up. Slashdot has encountered it; the problem is "solved" with moderation. Kuro5hin has encountered it; the problem is "solved" through deletion of posts by the admins. (I'm looking at the line just above which says "...all spammers will be deleted.") Usenet has encountered it; the problem is "solved" through anti-spam bots and group moderation. My guess is that none of the people or groups involved in any of these thinks of themselves as a censor - rather, they are trying the best they can to maintain the best and free-est conversation possible.

-- Michael Sims

[ Parent ]
Such hypocrisy! (5.00 / 4) (#69)
by cp on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 03:25:56 AM EST

During the great creationist flamewar, I suggested removing the creationists from the list because they were being purposely disruptive - 20-50 messages per day of pure crap
Well, since you've classified their speech as "crap" and not "speech" from the get go, you've already begged the question as to whether it is speech.
I regarded the suggestion as very similar to an anti-spam measure
Again, your definitional games. Spam is unsolicited email, usually commercial in nature. You signed up for a mailing list which had no restrictions as to its members' choice of discussion. You're denigrating discourse based on its content. You didn't attempt a time/place/manner response as was implemented via the separate chat list. You swiftly siezed upon the most punitive response: expatriation.
I absolutely refuse to describe "stopping other people from abusing and destroying a conversational forum" as censorship.
I absolutely refuse to let you pretend it's not censorship to stop forum members from "destroying" a forum by a mere act of speech. Speech cannot destroy a forum any more than flagburning can subvert a nation. Undoubtedly, you reject Chief Justice Burger's assertion in Miller that we must censor obscenity in order to free room for "real" speech. You're a hypocrite.
I'm as staunchly anti-censorship as anyone you're likely to meet.
No, you're staunchly hypocritical.
One person I know describes me as a "free speech absolutist"
I can think of one person off the top of my head who describes you as an expletive.
Slashdot has encountered it; the problem is "solved" with moderation.
Slashdot's moderation is a joke and a form of censorship in itself where contrary viewpoints are "moderated" out of existence via punitive karma penalties. You should know this since you've been known to moderate threads in your own articles (I have no proof) and steal user accounts when the system "fails" (I have proof).
Kuro5hin has encountered it; the problem is "solved" through deletion of posts by the admins.
That's inaccurate. Read all about the trusted-user guidelines.
My guess is that none of the people or groups involved in any of these thinks of themselves as a censor
Their self perception isn't binding, as your fallacious comment here has proven.

I find it intriguing that you defend yourself from this comment and not from the more reprehensible issue that is the subject of this article.

[ Parent ]

Well, now... (none / 0) (#70)
by rusty on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 04:26:54 AM EST

The question really is, was it a discussion, or was it spam? I have no way of telling you. If someone can point me at an archive, I'll edumacate myself.

The difference is, if one or two creationists were bombarding the list with 50 messages a day along the lines of:

...with no reply from the other faction (who had realized by now that that was just not the place for this), I'd say that looks like spam to me, and some kind of anti-spam measures are warranted, no matter who was doing it. And I use spam in the sense referred to by michael, and in our comment posting warning.

I mean, the attitude he claims to have is the same one that motivated me to create hidden comments. I agree with it entirely. Speech that is wholly content-free in a medium that is intended for contentful speech should be cleaned. Originally, we had the admin delete button, which still exists, but hasn't been used on anything but an accidental duplicate comment since September (and was used maybe 6 times before that, ever). I trust the collective judgement of the readers more than I trust my own personal judgement, so now we have collective filtering. But it is still very much filtering -- easy enough to work around, if you really want to, but solid enough to be a discouragement to spamming.

So, it all goes back to what the real case was. Were they spamming, or were they arguing? That makes all the difference.

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Definatly arguing (4.00 / 1) (#72)
by hardburn on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 08:59:40 AM EST

It was definatly arguing. I wish I could point you to some archives, but the archives that far back suck (basicly, the digest format cat'd to a file, then gzip'd).

Incidently, one of the list members on the other side of the issue from me contacted me over private e-mail. Our discussion was extremely freindly and one of the best discussions that I've ever been in over e-mail. It taught me that, while getting in a flame war with people you dissagree with can be fun, getting into an intelligent conversation with someone you dissagree with is far more satisfiying.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
^^hands up ^^ (none / 0) (#71)
by streetlawyer on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 08:11:14 AM EST

cp wrote:

I can think of one person off the top of my head who describes you as an expletive.

I believe that person is me, and the expletive is the Anglo-Saxon term for the female genitalia beginning with "c".

I've always thought you were quaint, Michael, and have admired your cunning stunts.

etc, etc. blart.

Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

I asked you then . . . (5.00 / 1) (#73)
by hardburn on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 09:07:53 AM EST

. . . and I ask you now: Why blame only the creationists? Evolutionists carry the same ammount of blame. If one side had just stoped posting, the flame war would have died immediatly. Banning all of them would have been the a better solution (although we didn't go that route, either).

The only question was whether they were going to destroy the Freenet mailing list with creationist posts that were completely unrelated to Freenet.

The only question was whether they were going to destroy the Freenet mailing list with evolutionist posts that were completely unrelated to Freenet.

The Freenet mailing lists still stand. -chat still gets off-topic a lot (but with things that are often vaguely related to Freenet, like big evil corperations), but people who don't care just don't join that list (many core developers don't).

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
And I answered then, I'm sure. (none / 0) (#76)
by jellicle on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 02:16:06 PM EST

I believe that I suggested removing everyone who was contributing to the off-topicness. If you got the impression that I wanted one side or the other gone, that wasn't my intention - clearly both sides were responsible.

I have one of the email messages I sent to freenet-chat - here's a quote:

"I defend their right to say what they want to say too, but not on freenet-chat. I would similarly oppose someone holding forth at length about Nazism, or liberalism, or sewing, or gardening, or algebra. Am I also an algebra-bigot?"

So, frankly, I don't see how you could reasonably believe that I cared about what they were saying except in that it was loud and repetitive and entirely unrelated to freenet.

-- Michael Sims

[ Parent ]
Predictions of doom not withstanding (none / 0) (#77)
by hardburn on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 02:42:45 PM EST

Nazism, or liberalism, or sewing, or gardening, or algebra.

I think we've had discussions at length about all those things on -chat. LOL.

In any case, I still maintain that your predictions of doom for the Freenet lists never came out. We just redirect topic-drift to -chat and let it die out on its own.

while($story = K5::Story->new()) { $story->vote(-1) if($story->section() == $POLITICS); }

[ Parent ]
Re: Free speech and spam (none / 0) (#85)
by bertok on Sat Mar 10, 2001 at 11:14:41 PM EST

I have to agree with Michael. I'm all for freedom of speech, but I also support giving people the right to simply not listen. If someone sets up a mailing list for a specific topic, there is nothing wrong with censoring off-topic posts, just like censoring spam or offensive messages. The members of the mailing list have a right to enjoy a service free of messages they don't care about.

"If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least
once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things."

[ Parent ]
Michael Sims & Ian Clarke Interview (4.00 / 2) (#65)
by roblimo on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 12:07:18 AM EST

I chose Ian for a Slashdot interview because I thought freenet was an interesting concept. Michael Sims had nothing to do with it. :)

- Robin

[ Parent ]
Matt Drudge (3.00 / 6) (#15)
by tewl on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 10:27:28 AM EST

I wrote a story on Matt Drudge a while back here on K5, you can find it here. I also did a lot on his background in the story for those who don't know who he is.

I basically set out to prove a point that I don't exactly believe, to try to see another side of the story that the ease of the internet is damaging to "regular" journalism. I'm still torn on how I feel about it, if the mainstream media won't publish it, it's good that there are other outlets for this purpose. But, they don't have the same sort of editing process, someone could publish a story that is just a rumor (Drudge is famous for this) as news, and it could turn out to be untrue (he got sued for this). Nonetheless, it is nice to have resources to get non-mainstream news.

BTW, I accidently voted "0" when I meant to vote +1, sorry 'bout that :(

just a joke (1.00 / 1) (#36)
by Wah on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 02:40:22 PM EST

It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a new bomber.

Yes a great day indeed, junior high kids with tactical stealth fighters and soldiers going on murderous rampages with sub-machines guns, just what we need.

Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

Journalistic standards... (3.60 / 5) (#16)
by ucblockhead on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 10:54:59 AM EST

But traditional news channels at least try to maintain decent journalistic standards...
Do they? Honestly, looking at most "traditional" news organizations, I don't see this. The network news shows and older newspapers have some semblence of standards, yes, but from what I have seen, most of the "traditional" media, as in the local news, news magazines and such, journalistic standards in general are sinking rapidly.

I'm unconvinced that bad journalistic standards on the net are the result of the net. My suspicion is that bad journalistic standards on the net are just part of the overall collapse of journalistic standards.

I've been meaning to start collecting funny local news quotes. From last night:

Fallen trees carved a swathe of destruction through the Bay Area.

This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
Journalistic standards (2.00 / 1) (#45)
by duffbeer703 on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 07:23:26 PM EST

"Traditional" news sources adapting to changes in the free market that they compete in, nothing more.

With the internet, I have the option of getting news from the New York Times, kuro5hin, drudge, the economist, press releases, etc. In other words, those who want "hard" news have literally thousands of places to go to read the news & comment that they are interested in.

The mainstream media appeals to the mainstream, who could care less about trade policy, the coup in Fiji or fighting in Bosnia. They want to hear about Britney Spears, scandal, and the weather.

That's the downside to freedom and free markets. I like to read the Wall St. Journal and several on-line sites. My dad has watched Dan Rather for his news for two decades. My neighbor's only exposure to news is MTV (ick). Former classmates enjoyed reading leftist 'activism' webpages and newspapers.

[ Parent ]
Advantages of web journalism (3.85 / 7) (#18)
by Beorn on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 11:04:57 AM EST

99% of everything sucks. You could list examples of poor news reporting on the web for hours and it would prove nothing else. The real question here is: is the web as a medium better suited for good journalism than print and tv?

I would say the web has a few advantages. One is the low barrier to entry, which removes reporting from the rich and the professional. Another is technical: Informative websites like Kuro5hin and the Drudge Report could never exist in print. Hyperlinks is one of the most important byproducts of the internet, (sadly underused by news sites), along with real time discussion forums like this one.

A third advantage is the international nature of the web. From the original source to your breakfast table, all news must pass through layers of unpredictable distortion. Journalists misunderstand and misrepresent, editors cut and paste, and they don't tell you about it. The closer you get to the original source of the news, the less distorted they are by hidden bias. Even propaganda is better from the source. When you read about a middle east incident in an online israeli newspaper, there's only one, easily predictable, bias to consider, (which if you like can be balanced later by an arabic version of the story). When you watch CNN's coverage of it, you must also consider the much less predictable bias of CNN's journalists and editors. So why bother?

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

Any worse than print? (3.20 / 5) (#19)
by loaf on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 11:26:33 AM EST

Journalists are only as bad as their paying readership will allow. If you run a print operation and your scribes hurt your bottom line then you sack them and employ new ones.

This would be the same for the web but for the major difference: many hacks are self-employed. In the infosphere self-publishing is the norm and the overheads are low - it doesn't matter so much to your bottom line if your output is poor if your costs are low and you are the boss!

The key to using any media as your source of news is trust and replication. Trust in a source is earned, but seeing the same output elsewhere to verify a story is a good way to start earning.

Speaking of Salon (3.00 / 5) (#20)
by Kellnerin on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 11:35:17 AM EST

On a related note, see this series of articles:

A lot of "information" sites on the Web don't purport to hold themselves to any kind of journalistic standard or to be run/edited/written by professional journalists. Whether you rely solely on them for "news" about the world and swallow what they tell you whole is your own lookout. I think one of the most valuable skills (and one that is not always taught) is to be able to evaluate any source of information for its strengths, weaknesses, biases, etc., and this goes for traditional print media (books as well as periodicals) as much as it does for the Internet.
Somebody go tell Kellnerin it's time for her to change her sig. -johnny
Why wasn't the Henry Hyde article news? (3.90 / 10) (#24)
by trust_no_one on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 12:07:01 PM EST

You allege that the fact that Henry Hyde had an adulterous relationship was not a relevant news story when published in Salon. You further report that "No responsible news source ran this story until Salon broke it." revealing your own bias.

Henry Hyde was the one leading the charge to impeach the President of the United States for lying about an adulterous sexual relationship. How is it not relevant that Mr. Hyde himself had just such a relationship? Why is his hypocrisy not newsworthy? Isn't it the responsibility of journalists to point out the glass houses that the throwers of stones live in?

To claim that it was somehow irresponsible to report the story seems to be the product of your own "political partisanship." I believe that Salon was right to report the story, and the public was probably right to shrug it off, as they did the story of Clinton's infidelity.

I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused

Because... (4.40 / 5) (#27)
by Mendax Veritas on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 12:39:05 PM EST

If Clinton had been on trial for having an affair, and Hyde had been foaming at the mouth about how vile Clinton was for having an affair, then you would have a point. But Clinton was on trial, not for the affair itself, but for lying about it under oath, a rather different situation. Nobody has ever accused Hyde of lying under oath, so his "hypocrisy" in this regard is basically imaginary. That being the case, the story of Hyde's thirty-years-gone affair had no relevance to the impeachment, and should not have been published. (In fact, Salon's editor admitted, in a companion editorial, that he published the piece as a partisan political attack. Furthermore, Salon's Washington bureau chief, Jonathan Broder, a well-known and respected journalist, resigned from Salon because of it, saying that the article damaged Salon's journalistic credibility.)

That said, I consider Hyde a pretty ugly character, and I don't support him in any way. The whole impeachment process was clearly motivated by a "Get Clinton!" attitude among conservatives. I certainly don't recall Henry Hyde working up any outrage when it came out that the Reagan administration lied to Congress about their covert support of the Nicaraguan Contras. If you want to call him a hypocrite on that basis, fine.


[ Parent ]

Because... (2.00 / 1) (#29)
by mami on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 01:36:34 PM EST

I think the issue is not if it was credible for Salon to reveal the "hypocracy" of Hyde, but why the press believes it is their right to ask anyone any question about their private sexual life in
the first place.

I think they don't and they should be held liable for intrusion, harrassment etc.

[ Parent ]
not relevant (3.50 / 2) (#48)
by Delirium on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 08:06:56 PM EST

Henry Hyde was the one leading the charge to impeach the President of the United States for lying about an adulterous sexual relationship. How is it not relevant that Mr. Hyde himself had just such a relationship?

As you correctly noted, the charge against President Clinton was lying under oath. As there is no evidence that Mr. Hyde himself lied under oath, I do not see how this is relevant in the least.

[ Parent ]

somewhat relevant (2.00 / 1) (#64)
by Wah on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 11:06:34 PM EST

but not necessarily from the legal standpoint. Many, many congresspeople were coming out with moral condemnations of Clinton's behaviour (the blowjob part) and it turned out some of the heaviest mudslingers lived in glass houses.

Personally I didn't really care, either way, but I thought it was relevant at the time, in kind of a rubbernecking-at-an-accident way.
Fail to Obey?
[ Parent ]

The Truth (4.20 / 5) (#26)
by codemonkey_uk on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 12:11:45 PM EST

I'm currently reading Terry Pratchett's "The Truth" [review]. Its about a hapless letter writter that ends up in charge of the first newspaper. He writes about what happens in the city, because the truth matters.

Its not long before the guilds come along and produce there own paper. A tabloid rag printing stories about women giving birth to snakes. Headline grabbers.

And I guess thats what makes the difference. Are the people behind the news writting for love or money?

If you write for the love of it, the chances are your going to want to publish the truth.

If your writting to pay the bills. Or worse, keep the stock holders happy, your going to print whatever it takes to pull in the punters.

I think the point I'm try to get to is that the web (as pointed out by others quicker than me) is a quick and easy medium, there will be more people out there writting for love, than there will be in the real world (that said there will also be a lot of crap and bias, but thats when trust comes into the picture). Putting out paper editions, and TV shows costs money.
"The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way." - Bertrand Russell

Drudge's cluefulness (2.33 / 3) (#31)
by bukvich on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 01:39:39 PM EST

The man just published a book. He used a ghost writer. A ghost writer. Somebody please explain to me again why I should pay attention to him?

What do you expect from Drudge? (2.00 / 1) (#44)
by duffbeer703 on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 07:15:48 PM EST

Drudge doesn't write anything! www.drudgereport.com is nothing more than links to breaking news at traditional news sites!

Drudge is not a journalist! He is at best an editor, at worst just some dude who runs a website (and wears a funny hat).

[ Parent ]
Article worth reading (2.50 / 2) (#33)
by Beorn on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 02:00:11 PM EST

Btw, there's a great article on online journalism and big corporations by Matt Welch at Online Journalism Review. OJR is becoming one of my favourite mags - especially the articles by Matt Welch and Ken Layne.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

Traditional Journalism != Good Reporting (4.42 / 7) (#35)
by Pedro Picasso on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 02:27:27 PM EST

Net media is often sensational, but its also more often down to a human level, where people tell you their biases and who owns them, and why they say the things they do. Traditional Journalism doesn't do this. The people at FAIR.org explain this a lot better than I do. Here are a few quick reasons why traditional journalism gets me down.
  • Protecting Advertisers - Did you notice that when Bill Gates was on the cover of Newsweek in the same edition that spoke poorly of the results of the Microsoft trial and its judge, they had a two page full spread advertisement for Microsoft products? This is professional journalism.
  • Protecting owners - Are you aware of the number of people who now get their world news (including tech trends and politics) from MSNBC? Do you know how many news outlets are reporting to the public about the very companies that own them? This is professional journalism.
  • Pretending Unbias - No human being is unbiased. No biased human being can truely write an anbiased article. When you try too hard you swing it to the other side. Still, instead of informing us of their own personal biases before trying to write an even handed article, professional journalists try to maintain that they have none, or that theirs don't encroach on their writing. This is professional journalism.
  • I am Ranting - This is not professional journalism.

-the Pedro Picasso

Cult of the Flaky Hardware
[ (sourceCode == freeSpeech) | kakkune.com ]
Hi, Adrian! (4.00 / 2) (#51)
by pb on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 12:12:35 AM EST

What I hate about traditional journalism is the fact that it's written at roughly a sixth grade level. This is what happens when newspapers market to the least common denominator. Naturally, some facts get squished in the rush.

I have seen MS-NBC bash Microsoft before. And they always stick in the disclaimer about how they have nothing to do with each other. That's entertainment.

I've also seen losers on ZD-Net *ahem*Berst*cough* rant about their pet peeves, and I've seen even stupider rants from, say, the inventor of Ethernet himself. I hope this sort of thing would never make it by a real editor; that might be the only redeeming factor in print media today.

What's my favorite print media? Probably The Onion. But it's great online, too. All the really entertaining stuff I've seen online first. Sluggy, User Friendly, you name it. :)

"See what the drooling, ravening, flesh-eating hordes^W^W^W^WKuro5hin.org readers have to say."
-- pwhysall
[ Parent ]
Hi, Peter. (none / 0) (#74)
by Pedro Picasso on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 09:12:34 AM EST

I know journalists are going to be biased and write at a 3year old's reading level, I just wish they would stop trying to promote themselves as unbiased, intelligent, and irreplacable human beings. I have a friend who's a journalist. (This is something akin to having a gay friend in the 80s.) Maybe I'll ask her why her collegues think they're special.
By the way, pb, you made it into my first diary entry.
-the Pedro Picasso

Cult of the Flaky Hardware
[ (sourceCode == freeSpeech) | kakkune.com ]
[ Parent ]
Editing can become CENSORSHIP (3.50 / 4) (#37)
by redelm on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 02:41:27 PM EST

I don't mind Drudge's drivel, nor SlashDot's slants. What I want is news, and I'll do my own fact checking, thank you very much. I don't accept any news source raw. Not Scientific American, the New England Journal of Medecine and certainly not The New York Times or The National Enquirer.

What can the alleged editors and fact-checkers actually do but ask a few basic questions, and ask to see documents. Given the pointers, I prefer to do this myself. I make up my own mind.

I don't like stories that have been buried for lack of corroboration. Others would rather be spoon-fed. Choose your poison.

Now, if the operators of a site, or owners of a publication want to do this or that checking to "improve" the quality of their material, that's their choice. They can pitch wherever they want to. But tighter editing inevitably leads to missed stories. Personally, I consider errors of omission at least as great as errors of commission, at least in news media.

Um.... (none / 0) (#78)
by flimflam on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 03:56:40 PM EST

That's all well and good, but how exactly do you do your fact checking? Do you go to the ground of a war and count the bodies yourself? I'm guessing that you evaluate news based on what you've read in other sources. In the end you have to trust some source, or at least trust that a source is always wrong ;-).

Personally I read news from several sources, and between them I think I get a fairly good idea or what's going on. But do I expect those sources to have fact-checkers and editors? Damn straight I do. The most valuable thing in a news source, IMNHO, is consistency. I may not agree with the bias of a newspaper or magazine, but at least I know that there is a consistant bias. Without fact-checking, all I know is that a good deal of what they print is crap.

And in terms of errors of omission: you can't possibly report everything. There's simply too much happening in the world for that.
-- I am always optimistic, but frankly there is no hope. --Hosni Mubarek
[ Parent ]
Corrections from third parties (4.40 / 5) (#38)
by swr on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 03:16:14 PM EST

One of the great things about web journalism in the style of /. and K5 is that readers can post corrections to factual errors. That link is a relatively minor example. The real bogons that get posted tend to get ripped apart within five minutes. On K5 they generally don't even make it out of the submission queue.

We don't see that in traditional journalism. Every news article I've seen that was about something that I knew, has had at least one factual error. In some cases key facts were completely misunderstood. I can't help but wonder about the veracity of the the rest of the material. Corrections are rarely issued, and when they are they are given very little ink/airtime - I can't help but wonder if they are being downplayed.

It's like the idea from open source software: all bugs are transparent when enough eyes are looking at them. With OSS it doesn't always work because most people use the software without really looking at the source code. I think it works a lot better with journalism, where anyone who reads the article has a chance to spot factual errors.

I didn't read past the first paragraph, and... (4.42 / 7) (#40)
by Medievalist on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 03:55:04 PM EST

... I'd like to share something with you all - a repeatable experiment that you should try.

When I was about twelve I had the exciting experience of winning a race, and the results of the swim meet were printed in the local paper. I was amazed to find that the paper reported my name correctly, but had the winning time incorrect by more than a second!!! I had the results from the entire meet handy, including all the times and names, so I checked 'em all.

The information reported in the paper was almost completely inaccurate; it was incorrect more often than correct.

Since then I have made a point of observing my surroundings and checking my personal knowledge against the newspaper and TV reports. For example, if I go to the Cherry Blossom parade in DC, I get a rough count of attendance if possible. Then I compare to the Washington Post (one of the most accurate newspapers, incidentally - they get almost 5% of the news I can personally verify reported correctly) and see how far off they are.

My personal, empirical observations show me that daily papers are nearly 100% misinformation. In the rush to print something that will sell, they tread heavily on journalistic accuracy - so much so that ethics and integrity cannot possibly enter into their activities. I haven't seen a newspaper article that I could PERSONALLY verify that did not contain misrepresentations or errors of fact in nearly thirty years.

Do it yourself. Check it out. Think for yourself.


PS: I don't read the commercial sports section (I am not interested in the latest injuries of overpaid drug abusers, kiddy games should be for kids) so the accuracy there may be higher.

Multiple sources--it's up to the user (4.00 / 3) (#41)
by sapphire on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 05:43:02 PM EST

All news sources are biased, so it is wise to seek more than one source. My main source of news is the Economist although I am American. The Economist covers every continent every week, and it is biased. However, because of the cultural and political differences between me and the editors, I am able to see past the bias (except where I blindly agree).

My second source of news is The News Hour on public television. It is probably the most objective news source on TV in the USA. I don't really see much difference between the mainstream US news and entertainment television programs (tabloid shows), but there are good news sources out there for those of us that care to know what is happening in the world.

Other great sources of news. (2.00 / 1) (#43)
by duffbeer703 on Mon Mar 05, 2001 at 07:13:11 PM EST

If you subscribe to DirecTV, Newsworld rocks!

It is a Canadian Broadcasting channel, which has news programs from Canada, England, Germany and Japan. It also features relevant and in-depth interviews and documentaries.

Also, NPR and the BBC world service are A+ news sources. I would listen to NPR every day, except for those damn begging sessions once per month.

[ Parent ]
Well... well... well... (3.33 / 3) (#55)
by slimy_snake on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 03:23:15 AM EST

Quite a bit of the ranting and raving that has been going on here depends on what you would call as traditional media. And i very much beg to differ on what you mean by all that.

Journalism on the net is no better than what condition the traditional media is in right now. And traditional media is adequately blinded, confirming to the whims and fancies of powerful lobbies and govts. Now, if this is what you prefer to call objective and good journalism, i guess i won't say much more on the subject.

Kosovo and Iraq are two well reported instances of this 'objective reporting'. The media, both online and the traditional went ga ga over anything and everything in both the cases. But now where are the two cases? No one even dares to mention in the traditional media or the 'new' net-based media that they have found hardly 4000 bodies in Kosovo, while the genocide of millions was supossed to be the reason why a nation was illegaly bombed and split apart.

Salon and everything else you have mentioned is fine enough. But I do not think that these can be taken as a source of real news. Most of these websites are often part of an elite sub culture or just pretend to belong to one.

And as far as K5 and Slashdot are concerned, i guess this is the future of journalism. You will have news that you yourself create. Of course, we will have lots of rubbish as we go along that path. But i guess the results will justify this. For instance there would have been no way an opinion like mine, coming from a place as distant as India, would ever get a mention in a primarily western forum.

over and out
I'm so tired, of playing
Playing with this bow and arrow - Portishead

Reliable? (4.33 / 3) (#58)
by Bisun on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 12:02:24 PM EST

I've witnessed an event, and then seen the write up afterwards. Net sources would have to work very hard to be as biased and inaccurate.

Actually, though it isn't a large sample, I've witnessed about 5 events that I later saw reported. In no case would I have recognized the event from the description. In every case the event had been reprocessed to cause it to be much more exciting (usually threatening) than it was when I watched it.

OTOH, genuinly threatening events are frequently not reported at all. E.g., Rodney King's beating by the police wouldn't have been reported it a nearby resident had not video-taped it. But the way the police treat the citizens is a genuinly threatening aspect of the world. It can be one of the main determinants of the quality of life. And if people are too unhappy, social stability suffers.

journalistic innacuracy (3.50 / 2) (#67)
by roblimo on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 01:09:58 AM EST

"I've witnessed an event, and then seen the write up afterwards. Net sources would have to work very hard to be as biased and inaccurate."

Same here. And that is why I got into journalism. I thought I could do better. :)

- Robin

[ Parent ]
/. is not journalistic, nor does it pretend to be (3.66 / 3) (#63)
by zman on Tue Mar 06, 2001 at 08:56:59 PM EST

Slashdot is simply a 'link pool'. I really like it because they gather news for me and present me to links to where I can read about it from 'real journalists'. They also post links to things they deem 'cool', which also works out being that I find I share many of the same interests such as anime and star wars. None of the editors really write anything except Katz. If you doubt whether something they post is true or accurate, you can 'follow the links'.
- zman
Feh. (1.50 / 4) (#75)
by jellicle on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 02:04:01 PM EST

Frankly, the only response this article inspires in me is wonder.

Specifically, I'm wondering if kuro5hin.org will simply become a place to make up lots of hit pieces and post them under a pseudonym that translates as "Lying about the truth".

-- Michael Sims

Not quite (4.50 / 2) (#79)
by Mendax Veritas on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 07:06:25 PM EST

"Mendax" is not a verb. Your translation is in error.


[ Parent ]

Please indicate what part is untrue or misleading (5.00 / 7) (#81)
by Seth Finkelstein on Wed Mar 07, 2001 at 11:28:15 PM EST

It's always important to be aware of the problem of proof. It's easy for an observer to dismiss everything as the product of a flame-war or a hatchet-job. So in support of the account, I offer again:

Jonathan Wallace's account of Censorware Project

James Tyre's message about Michael Sims' abuses as webmaster

It's irrefutable that the domain censorware.org is controlled by Michael Sims, and that Censorware Project's new website at http://censorware.net is publicly asking:

Mike, now that the site is back up, we are renewing our request that you transfer us the censorware.org domain. You're not using it for anything, and it will continue to confuse people and divert traffic away from this, the rightful Censorware Project site.
The Slashdot abuses are harder to prove. But many people saw my messages mentioning the shut-down of censorware.org (always posted only to a censorware discussion) immediately slammed down from +2 to -1. That happened too fast to be honest moderation, and figuring out the identity of the editor who would abuse his privileges that way, is hardly a difficult task.

Your rebuttal would be of great interest.

Seth Finkelstein (sethf [at-sign] sethf.com)
-- Seth Finkelstein
[ Parent ]

/. abuses are harder to prove for a good reason (5.00 / 3) (#84)
by electricmonk on Sat Mar 10, 2001 at 10:49:02 PM EST

This is probably because of the fact that Slashdot removes all -1 posts when articles are archived, thus automatically erasing all evidence of abuse. I recall someone on Slashdot talking about how Michael explained how he took over the Signal 11 account in a thread he started, then modded himself and everyone else in the thread down to -1 in order to get Slash to remove the entire thing in the process of archiving.

Of course, these are simply unprovable accusations unless we could catch him in the act, i.e. he has done something like this in the past two weeks or so.

"There are only so many ways one can ask [Jon Katz] what it's like to be buried to the balls in a screaming seven-year-old" - Ian
[ Parent ]

Heh. (4.00 / 1) (#83)
by Potsy on Sat Mar 10, 2001 at 10:45:56 PM EST

You wonder if K5 will become a place to "make up lots of hit pieces"? Why? What does that have to do with this article?

I ask because everything said about you in the article appears to be true. It's been confirmed by several people. If there is any part of it that someone had to "make up", why don't you get specific and say which parts are made up? Or are you "not particularly interested in answering questions right now", as you say here?

[ Parent ]

Hate to tell you... (3.50 / 2) (#86)
by greydmiyu on Tue Mar 13, 2001 at 07:02:46 PM EST

Hate to tell you but Journalistic Standards don't exist in "traditional" media any more than they do at the sites you mentioned. I stopped watching the local and national evening news programs because of the endless glaring errors that I constantly spotted. Fact checking is given lip service, at best. On those shows a "good" story had less than 5 errors that I could explain in a sentence or less. Not errors of "opinion" but factual errors.

Want an example that any K5 reader should understand right off the bat? How many times in the past few months have you heard, or read, the following?

"Napster is a web site that allows you to download music for free over the internet."

Now, raise your hand if you understand that Napster is not a web site but is, in fact, a peer-to-peer application with a centralized indexing server. IE, other than going to Napster's web site to download the program, it has nothing to do with web sites.

Now keep your hand up if you understand this means that what the general public believes about Napster is radically different from what is actually happening and if you explained that Napster wasn't offering these songs for free but other people are offering them then opinions about it may be altered.

I had to ask myself, if their stories have glaring errors like the above that I spot all the time on topics I am relatively familiar with, how many errors do they have that I am missing on topics I am not even passingly familiar with? Statistically, about the same.

I'd say the most accurate portion of any local or national news broadcast is the weather and we all know how accurate that is, right?

Print was about the same. Each story was riddled with factual errors which even the most casual knowledge in the field can spot.

So until the traditional journaistic outlets get their act together I don't think any of them can really point their finger at the online versions and talk about a lack of integrity. Furthermore I don't think anyone should hold them up as an example of what online Journalism should strive for.

-- Grey d'Miyu, not just another pretty color.
What these sites do for us (none / 0) (#87)
by Lelon on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 07:21:47 PM EST

These sites actually serve a valuable purpose. While you and the editors of the so-called "main stream" media didn't feel the Henry Hyde Story was worth the trouble, I was interested in hearing the story, if for no other reason then to make up my own mine. Even the Drudge Report (which, by all journalistic standards is a complete joke) has broke a story or two in its days (lately the alleged "White House trashing") So while the Drudge Report doesn't rise to the level of professionalism and journalistic standards necessary for me to visit the site, I'm comforted by the fact these sites exist to keep a watch on the major news organizations.

This sig is a work in progress.
Journalistic Standards in Web News Sites: Are They Adequate? | 88 comments (85 topical, 3 editorial, 0 hidden)
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