Facts on the Ground

FACTS ON THE GROUND….In a paean to old-fashioned gumshoe reporting and “the patient sifting of fact,” Michael Skube writes today:

The blogosphere is the loudest corner of the Internet, noisy with disputation, manifesto-like postings and an unbecoming hatred of enemies real and imagined.

And to think most bloggers are doing all this on the side. “No man but a blockhead,” the stubbornly sensible Samuel Johnson said, “ever wrote but for money.” Yet here are people, whole brigades of them, happy to write for free. And not just write. Many of the most active bloggers — Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, Joshua Micah Marshall and the contributors to the Huffington Post — are insistent partisans in political debate.

Look, we all make mistakes. But of these four examples, the first three are all professional writers and the fourth is a venture-funded site with a paid staff. If you’re going to extol “thorough fact-checking and verification” over the blogosphere’s “potpourri of opinion,” you really ought to fact-check your assertions first. Otherwise you’re just making things too easy for us.

Skube’s larger point, by the way, is that the really important stories — “what lodges in the memory, and sometimes knifes us in the heart” — are the result of the kind of shoe-leather reporting that unpaid bloggers generally can’t do. And that’s true enough. But why make it out to be a competition? Blogs don’t crowd out important reporting, after all. More often, in fact, they amplify it, making it available to a larger, more engaged audience than in the past. There’s plenty of room in the world for both.

BY THE WAY: There’s a serious point here too. The professionalization of the blogosphere (especially the lefty blogosphere) is a big, underappreciated story, and the characterization of bloggers as a bunch of loons ranting for free is not only silly, but woefully out of date. More reporting, please.

UPDATE: Josh Marshall emailed with Skube about his piece this afternoon and learned something interesting about how he came to make this mistake. It doesn’t make either Skube or the LA Times look especially good, though.