Website editors and journalistic/research integrity : LUSENET : Medley Discussion : One Thread

With respect to the Medley entry of January 12, to what extent, if any, should website editors follow research or journalistic practices?

-- Ms. Medley (, January 12, 2000


Webloggers gamble their reputation with every link they offer. If they link to a page that consists entirely of character-assassination, they lose my respect. (Grossman's page is entirely character assassination.)

-- Jorn Barger (, January 13, 2000.

Just for reference, the article to which Mr. Barger refers can be found at Judge for your self.


-- Leonard Grossman (, January 14, 2000.

Back on topic:

The standard has to be flexible. The more serious or sensitive the subject of the link, and the more a writer or editor seems to approve or adopt its contents, rather than merely point to it, the greater the responsibility to check or to validate the material, or at least to provide a mechanism to acknowledge criticism or comments.

Perhaps the responsibility increases with the size of the audience and the respect the blogger has in the field.

However, I recognize that any more rigid standard would conflict with the very nature of the Weblog and also with the kind of informal writing found on my pages.


-- Leonard Grossman (, January 14, 2000.

I think we need to recognize that not all websites are the same type of thing. Even in print there are many periodicals that do not follow accepted journalistic practices, and even more ephemera that no one would dream of holding to journalistic standards. There's a spectrum from the London Times and Time (substitute your own high-end journals if you like, this is not a discussion of biases in the major media) through the Post Falls Gazette to zines like Maximum Rock N Roll to advertising circulars in the print world. The same holds true in the online world. To try to hold and to the same standard is absurd.

-- Mike Gunderloy (, January 14, 2000.

Mike's points are excellent. But the standards we are discussing are self imposed, depending on the level of credibility desired by the writer and appropriate to the nature of the material.

Indeed at, "Unvelievable!!" might be the desired response. But I would think most webloggers would prefer a little greater respect (even if they would not entirely eschew the higher hit counts).

-- Leoanrd Grossman (, January 14, 2000.

The weblogs I read consistently, including my own, have always come across as extremely personal. I read 'blogs because they're glimpses inside personalities that aren't mine, they help me see the world outside of my normal preconceptions and prejudices.

Over the, heck, probably nearly 3 years I've been reading them, and a few weeks shy of 2 years I've been publishing my own, I've learned that in general we 'bloggers do have higher journalistic standards than the usual media outlets. I think more of us called the "Ron's Angels" hoax than a similar sample of the mainstream media, and given time I could probably come up with quite a few more. Our higher hit rate is probably because we tend to write for our own biases, rather than those of our advertisers, but I digress.

So I don't expect some sort of hand-holding when I run across links. I expect that the nature of the stories and commentary will be moderately consistent, but I'll still do my own fact-checking, just as I do when making decisions based on New York Times articles. In fact, having hung out with some PR folks and done a little media hacking myself, I'd argue that the current level of trust our culture has in "journalism" is massively misplaced and harmful.

I read in public. I like to think that my personal standards for truth exceed that of the mainstream press, but what gives my weblog value is that it's not the standards of the mainstream press.

I had a long rant about the specifics of the case that's got us all talking about this, but I've erased it because I believe that Leonard Grossman's already had his 15 minutes. My parting shot, despite the fact that I can't get to to check right now 'cause of 'net problems, is that it seems like they might be a regional service provider, and I seem to remember that Jorn's old address was at Perhaps this is a real-life feud carried over into the 'net world?

-- Dan Lyke (, January 14, 2000.


Thanks for pointing out the access problems. I have notified Winstar which purchased MCS a year or so ago.

I agree with most of what you say. I have noted elsewhere that it is the individual personalities and biases of the various bloggers that makes their work so interesting.

However, since I have been writing commentary online in one form or another for nearly a decade, perhaps you won't begrudge me few more seconds.

For the record: No feud. Prior to the incident which inspired my article, my pages frequently praised Jorn. They still contain numerous links to his normally outstanding work. It was the trust built over a period of time, that led to my dismay, whether merited or not.

In any event, it is not the individual reference, over which there can be disagreement, I suppose, but the broader issue of journalist standards and responsibility which interests me and was, I thought, the subject of this discussion.

-- Leonard Grossman (, January 16, 2000.

The UN said it best, I believe: Zionism is Racism.

Per Mr. Grossman, I believe your "stomach test" is not really valid-- your stomach is too sensitive. Mr. Barger's intention's are surely not to slander jews (as is the implication in your article) but to shed light on jewish fundamentalism, which is indeed (just as hindu, muslim, christian, and countless others) an anachronistic, antagonistic, and thoroughly bizarre world view. I believe Mr. Barger's interest is not to single out jewish fundamentalism because it is jewish, but because it has revieved such a paucity of attention in the mainstream press.

I invite further debate on this issue, which is to me at the heart of what weblogs are really all about-- subversion of the fourth estate.

izzy s klein

-- Izzy Klein (, January 16, 2000.

Mr. Klein:

The U.N. rescinded that pernicious resolution in 1991.

Nevertheless, I don't know what Mr. Barger's intention was. He has not seen fit to respond substantively, either in private or in public. However, it seems to me that there has been quite a bit of discussion in the mainstream media lately regarding Jewish fundamentalism. The media seems all too happy to publicize statements that dramatize extreme positions of that community. Recall example the extreme amount of attention given recently to a rabbi's ruling regarding the evils of the Internet.

If there is less discussion of Jewish fundamentalism, it must be noted that Jews make up only a tiny fraction of the world's population, and Jewish fundamentalists only a tiny fraction of that. The number and power of Christian and Muslim fundamentalists is much greater.

Back closer to topic, I suppose: I don't believe that the purpose of the Weblog need be as narrow as you suggest. The subjects and styles of Weblogs vary greatly. Many bloggers seem to have no political agenda at all.

I think the Weblog is a valuable supplement to the fourth estate, but if the community becomes arrogant or irresponsible, it will lose its value. And if webloggers speak only to themselves and not to the broader community -- the community that has no interest in blogging themselves, but seeks to find interesting, perhaps entertaining or amusing, but reliable information, they will have missed a great opportunity.

-- Leonard Grossman (, January 16, 2000.

Addendum: Mr. Klein: I recognize that my stomach may be too sensitive, but among the questions my article poses is what other tools are there to judge what we read? Especially when most of us read on the fly.

And what should we do when our sensors do react?


-- Leonard Grossman (, January 16, 2000.

Hm, journalistic standards. I don't think, at least in my current state of cogitation on the subject, that a blogger has any more (or less) responsibility than a poster to Usenet, or a streetcorner speaker standing on his milk crate. When a blogger says "here's a link that might interest you, and here are a bunch of quotes from the page at the other end, so you can decide if it's worth following the link", the only responsibility that I can think of is to make sure that the link is valid, and that the quotes are really taken from the page at the other end of it.

When a blogger attaches more commentary to a link, he should make sure it's truthful (i.e. not a lie), just because we all have a general responsibility not to lie. In this particular case, Jorn described the thing as long (which it is), as extremely lucid (which I'm sure he thinks it is), as appalling (which is somewhat ambiguous in this context, but again I'm sure he was reporting his true impression of the text), and as a history of Jewish fundamentalism (which is certainly is; it may be a true history or a false history, an accurate history or a completely fabricated history, but it's still a history). Nowhere there is Jorn lying.

Did Jorn have a responsibility to read the text deeply, decide how plausible it seemed, and (if it seemed implausible) put some sort of cautionary note on the link? I don't think so. Jorn doesn't present himself as an expert on the subject matter. He's a blogger; he found an interesting page and gave a link to it, along with a few words describing his impression of it and some quotes which seemed to him representative of the page. That's all he puts himself forward as doing, and that's all I would think anyone would expect of him.

If the material is implausible, the reader following that link can decide for himself; there's no reason a reader should expect Jorn to be any better at deciding that than is the reader himself. Again, Jorn doesn't claim to be a subject-matter expert. I don't expect or require that bloggers giving links also give suggestions as to how seriously the material at the other end should be taken; I can judge that for myself, and I don't consider or expect the bloggers to be expert judges to whom I should defer. We're all just trading "here's something that might be worth a look" pointers. That's what we do...

-- David M. Chess (, January 18, 2000.

Isn't "journalistic ethics" an oxymoron anyway? I mean, why would anyone apply a higher standard of truth to Jorn than, say, the New York Times?

-- Dan Lyke (, January 19, 2000.

I don't think it's an oxymoron, really. When you publish an actual newspaper, especially a serious-looking one, you set up certain expectations with the reader that are IMHO different than what a weblogger sets up with the log's readers. Either implicitly or explicitly, you're contracting with the reader to do fact-checking, to avoid irony, to be something of a subject-area expert on every subject you report about. So if the New York Times had published the same excerpts that Jorn did, with only the comment that they were from a "long lucid history of Jewish fundamentalism", I would tend to raise my eyebrows more than I did when Jorn did it.

The Times sets itself up as a content-judge; it's not promising just to point us at interesting stuff, but to put the stuff more-or-less fully into context, to tell us what the various factions in the world think of it, to save us the trouble of having to think very hard about it ourselves, or do any research.

If the Times had published those pull-quotes, I would have expected to see in the same story some note that the opinions they express do not represent a consensus of scholars, some hint at what the others views are, and so on. The Times doesn't always do an ideal job of living up to these expectations of mine, of course! But I think the expectations are legitimate, and that the Times does have a real expectation to try to live up to them.

This doesn't apply to all material publications, of course; no one expects the Weekly World News to do fact-checking! *8) But in any act that looks like publication, there is some (generally implicit contract) between the publisher and the reader. I think that contract is rather different for a weblogger ("I will give you links that I find interesting, maybe some pull-quotes from the pages they point to, and maybe my own subjective impression of those pages") than it is for a serious newspaper ("We will tell you the important things that are happening in the world, and give you the range of legitimate reaction to and interpretation of the events"). So IMHO there really is a specific journalistic ethics that is different from the specific weblogger ethics.

Something like that, anyway... *8)

-- David M. Chess (, January 20, 2000.

I am an older guy. Not used to blogs. But I had for years been involved with literature and writing. I know that we often see patterns in things. This is often how I come to understand a person and a piece of writing...what gets stated, mentioned, implied over and over beyond the expected. When you spot that you may well be onto a thing that tells us something about the author, editor, critic. Example: Shakespeare of all the writers is the only writer who consistenly depicts the snail with its sensitive horns withdrawing into its shell for protection. All other writers refer to snails and their slowness. Many more for Willy and for other writers. Barger is now giving us links that ask us to consider the racist thinking of Judaism. He also gives us a link (same day) on a writer who implies that Jews were really Egyptians and therefore, says the writer about thie book that says the bible all myth, the Jews havfe no claim to the holy lands because their bible is a myth! Wow. odd coincidence. And Jorn also gets his origial title (why the neeed to change the title) from British paper (conservative) The Times. Now that would be a link and that is ok. But now he needs to call his readers harsh names because they write in to complain. And now he needs to open up a discussion on the topic. This, for me, is merely an obsession taking over. Not to worry Jorn. I have been around a long time and have seen very bright people also obsess over this or that. Back to where I began. The pattern clearly idnciates that Jorn is not simply moving about randomly but is in fact touching from time to time something he is trying to deal with or something he is trying to convince his link watchers to find that he is onto something. As my laweyr told me after my divorce: time to move on. another bus on the way. he was right! I found the right bus. Perhaps Jorn will too. Would be nice if we could send Jorn to israel and to some Arab countries to see first-hand what is what. if nothing else, he could discover that Jews come in many different stripes (orthodox, reform, conservative, secular) and that not all Jews throughout the world are the same as all Jews in Israel, who are after all not the same within Israel either. Or is this not viewing the world in neat 0 and 1's black and white? Jorn. Get over it. You are making a fool of yourself.

-- fred lapides (, December 27, 2000.

I have just posted so relevant stuff over at the robotwisdom leg of this bb (about jews equipshuns. Yall welcome there as much as here . . and here:

-- piet bouter (, January 10, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ