Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spitting Tacks

I'm not sure which pisses me off more.

Andre's not-so-contrite disclosure.

Or Creative Loafing Ken Edelstein's clinging to the "anonymous=less credibility" canard - with an anonymous commenter defending Ken just to complete the irony.

Actually I do know what causes my spleen to lurch with the most violence. Exactly as I feared Andre's shenanigans have given opportunity for those in the traditional media to shout "told you so!" His half ass explanations and not so apologetic apologies are only making matters worse.

And it would have been so simple. Come out with some mea culpa. For God's sake, most of us gave him a pass on his half-ass retraction of the false GAE-DPG story. But not this time. This time, we receive nothing but unrepenant sneering, So at least on this blog, it will be met with no mercy. None at all.

UPDATE: JESUS GOD! How many times do I have to explain my view of anonymity and the internet? For those who still don't get it please read HERE.

41 comments:

Amber said...

Edelstein is SO full of it on that thread.

That was actually the final straw that made me put up my post about words I'm sick of this morning (it had been brewing for a while).

Amber said...

And I really don't understand why Edelstein keeps going on about the "anonymous" thing, because like you said already, hello, Andre WAS NOT ANONYMOUS! Mind-boggling. It's totally irrelevant and yet he keeps mentioning it, as if we're all too stupid to k now what really happened? I don't get it.

Catherine said...

What is Edelstein issue with anonymity, anyway? I know his name, and his email address, but he has *never* responded to anything I ever sent. Lotsa good it does to have his name.

Plus, as far as the Georgia Blogosphere community goes, very few of the primary posters are truly anonymous anymore. And if someone is, and does something really boneheaded, we can figure who they are and reprimand, punish, or quiet them.

I guess KE makes me madder because I have higher expectations from CL than I do from Andre. Or I should say, I have expectations for CL and none for Andre.

Lucid Idiocy said...

Credibility being in the eye of the beholder, how in the world could anonymity not = less credibility?

griftdrift said...

Jesus God. No offense Travis but how many times do I have to explain this?

http://griftdrift.blogspot.com/2007/08/whats-in-name.html

Sara said...

Yeah, Mike Barnicle and Jayson Blair are totally more credible in their sourcing of stories than Mr. anonymous unknown Griftdrift.

It's total stupidity, but I suspect you will find it hard to get people who put their full name in a byline every day to understand where we are coming from. Many of them are still of the mindset that if it is in the paper or on the TV news, then we readers/viewers should trust them that the stories are true and adequately sourced. (Because that myth hasn't been exploded at ALL in the last few years.)

lazermike said...

I have to say I'm with lucid. Grift, I read your older post and I understand how an anonymous yet reliable blogger (or any author) can earn credibility over time. But it is still an uphill effort compared to someone willing to sign a name, and even more difficult compared to someone with an organization behind him or her that also stands to lose credibility.

If a person wishes to offer an opinion -- or even report -- yet remain anonymous, that's his or her right. But he or she can't just demand to be treated the same as someone who is willing to go public with an identity. I know who you are, Grift, and I can use that knowledge to evaluate what you write. I can't do that with someone I know nothing about. And that's fine -- it's a trade-off.

In fact, you wrote: "There's not much to explain here but it should be noted the use of a real world name does give these folks a notch up in the credibility department." I think that's true.

We'll have to get together and talk over this old media/new media stuff sometime.

griftdrift said...

What part of this do you journalists not get? I absolutely do not ask for instant credibility. All I've ever asked if that we, and by we I mean individually, should be judged on our content and not the vehicle with which we deliver that content. But over and over and over again we are all lumped together. Don't believe me? Read the list of links I just posted.

It's as fair as me putting the Macon Telegraph and the National Enquirer in the same category. But hey. They both use real names so why not?

Sara said...

OK Mike, you know him. You don't know me. Do you presume I'm full of shit because I only sign my posts with my first name?

I just don't see why it's hard for you all to judge the credibility of the work, not the name attached to it.

Amber said...

Griftdrift I feel for you here. It's frustrating to be constantly explaining and re=explaining, in excrutiating detail, and still have people JUST. NOT. GETTING IT.

This is what makes me want to do the old claw-hammer to the eyes routine from time to time. Like, oh, last summer, perhaps.

Catherine said...

So, lazermike, when you're on vacation somewhere you've never been, and you pick up the local newspaper, do you immediately trust the reporting in that paper?

lazermike said...

OK, I'll bite.

To Grift: Of course you should be judged on your content. I'm just saying that anonyminity does not lend itself to credibility. I read blogs, and there are many of them that are anonymous that I have grown to trust (I'm not counting yours, because you're not anonymous to me). I understand that the Internet is a different world and the fact that a writer is anonymous does not mean that he or she is hiding something. But I believe that a person who puts his or her real name out there has something more to lose (take a look at the subject of this post), and that's worth something to me.

Speaking of lumping in: Who brought up Jayson Blair? I'm not lumping anyone together.

To Sara: I don't assume you're full of shit. But I wouldn't necessarily know what your motives are. I saw on your site that you disclose that you support Obama, which I think helps (not necessarily that it's Obama, but that the reader knows where you stand). You've also been at this a long time and proven yourself, and that's the most important thing, way more important than whether you use your last name or not.

To Catherine: This may make everyone the most angry, but yes I do. I believe that accuracy and credibility are crucial to a newspaper, and I believe they take that very seriously. I was a newspaper reporter in a former life (full disclosure), and I know that every person I worked with (with the exception of one person at a suburban weekly) took it very seriously also. I know there are Jayson Blairs and Judith Millers and others out there, and I know that reporters can also be lazy. But I think that a newspaper has a real and powerful interest in getting things right as often as possible, and I give them the benefit of the doubt. If I go to a different city and pick up the local section (which I always read first no matter where I am), I expect that the writers and photographers and editors are committed to accuracy. I may be wrong, but what is life without a little trust?

To Amber: Really, I get what Grift is saying. Disagreeing (and, frankly, I'm not sure we disagree all that much) doesn't mean that I don't get it.

Finally, yes, I'm aware of the irony of me saying all these things under a handle. Just so you know, I'm Mike Weiss, 38, of Inman Park.

Sara said...

"You've also been at this a long time and proven yourself, and that's the most important thing, way more important than whether you use your last name or not."

This is all that I think any of us dirty bloggers are asking for...that people examine a person's work and give credibility based upon the quality of that work, rather than the anonymity or public persona of the author.

Frankly, I have work-related reasons why I don't blog under my full name. I don't have the luxury of smacking my name on every post or on the blog as a whole. Many bloggers don't, since most do not blog as their primary profession. And so it's frustrating to hear what sounds like others saying we can never achieve full credibility as long as we are just a username.

griftdrift said...

Mike I don't necessarily disagree.

And through all of these conversations today I think I'm getting close to the core of this thing.

And Travis this goes directly to what you wrote the other day.

Most newspapers (and TV I suppose) do not understand the online world. Not that they haven't made progress. Remember it wasn't that long ago that many we talked to were horrified by something as innocuous as comments.

But there are fundamentals of the online arena that some (not all) in real world journalism just cannot wrap their heads around. And handles seems to be one of them.

They've been around since the beginning of the internet. That's why those of who have been wandering the strange halls of the web for so long treat them as just another fact of life. There is no strangeness to us. But I could see how someone who fairly recently became involved in online communities would see them as strange and foreign thus developing a strange type of "xenophobia".

And of course they can be abused. But another thing we online people "get" where others seem to struggle is we've been doing this so long we can pretty easily discern all the different clades of users from trolls to regular nics.

Its these fundamentals of online life where the regular press seems to struggle so mightily.

But the simple fact is you better learn. Its evolve or die time and you need to be able to adapt. And there are those who are willing to help with the navigation. But not if you are an obstinate ass who keeps pissing us off.

Amber said...

I know who you are, Grift, and I can use that knowledge to evaluate what you write. I can't do that with someone I know nothing about.

Yeah but how is that any different than just someone using their real name, that you've never heard of? The mere fact of them using their real name doesn't mean you know anything about them.

Also, I think a lot of people are saying anonymous when they mean pseudonymous (or as grift said, "semi-anonymous"). Maybe that is where some confusion is coming in, too.

Amber said...


To Sara: I don't assume you're full of shit. But I wouldn't necessarily know what your motives are.


But how does simply knowing or not knowing someone's real name translate into knowing their motives? The two are not connected... so that's what I'm still not getting.

It's more about online presence (or a paper trail, to be more inclusive of not just online content, but print, broadcast, etc.) than a name. Mike you know Griftdrift bc of his presence. There are plenty of people who's real name I know, but I Google them and I get nothing - so I know nothing about them.

And ultimately, do you ever REALLY know someone's motives? (Or do we want to go down this rabbit hole?) You can only work witht he information you have - and if the only information is the person's word, then you have to take them at their word. Lies by omission make it more complicated too.

Amber said...

Also Mike, to clarify above the "just not getting it" ws in refernce more to lucid idiocy - but yeah, on it's own, I would probably take your first comment as "not getting it" too (without your later comments)

lazermike said...

Heck, Sara -- kos uses about as much of his full name as you do. I have no idea what Digby's real name is. And you have "full credibility" with me. I have nothing against bloggers, and I'm not sure how I somehow got turned into the Emissary From Old Media here.

All I'm saying is that, to me, all things being equal, a person who doesn't sign his or her name has less initial credibility than someone who does. I don't see what's so wrong with that. I understand there is a long tradition on the Internet of using handles. There's also a long tradition in the world of "come over here and say that to my face."

Talking about factual reporting and not opinion, I do trust what I read in the paper I've never read before more than on a blog I've never read before. That's because I believe that it is most likely that the item in the paper was reported by someone who was committed to the principles of accuracy and objectivity and getting multiple sources and so on. Maybe it wasn't -- I don't know. But that reporter has a lot to lose by not being that committed -- a job, the respect of peers, and not least the ability to ever talk to that source again. The editors have similar incentives, even if they don't believe in those principles as a rule (and I think most do), so they serve as a backstop. Let me tell you about trying to go back to a police detective the day after you write something he's not happy with -- it's not easy.

I think this may go to your point, Amber. It's not that a name tells me everything about a person. It just creates a further incentive to get things right.

I guess I'm not really sure what we're arguing about. Sara, what credibility is it that you're seeking? From what I gather, you write mostly about your life and share your thoughts on issues. Obviously, you have total credibility on those points. But if you were to all of a sudden write that some local government official had taken a bribe, should your story be given the same accord as an AJC or Loaf story that says the same things? I have no idea what kind of standards you have for that kind of thing (though I assume they are high -- I'm just using you as an example). I also have no idea if you're a supporter of her opponent. There are bloggers who do this kind of reporting, and I'll tell you that the fact that the folks from firedoglake go on CNN and discuss their reporting goes a long way with me.

So, really, I understand why you all use handles or are semianonymous, and that's fine. Sara, you obviously have a very good reason. But I don't see why -- all things being equal -- it's wrong for me to look a little more askance at information from someone who doesn't put a name to it.

Lucid Idiocy said...

It's not that we don't understand "the online world," it's that we don't know how to make money off it in the amounts the business is used to.

How's that going for you guys?

As for anonymity, I'm only arguing one simple point: All other things being equal, if you know who someone is you're more likely to believe what they say, because they are more accountable.

Amber said...

I think one thing we're arguing about is that especially nowadays it's laughably disingenuous to trust a newspaper "just because." I think traditional media outlets know that they'll be given that kind of credibility out the door and they've taken advantage of it, and had some really epic failures that I'm surprised more people aren't affronted at.

Also, re: opinions, that reminds me of something I read the other day, talking about how there's nothing new about getting paid for an opinion. Tradtional media outlet have had opinion columns forever. But that's kind of a tangent.

Amber said...


As for anonymity, I'm only arguing one simple point: All other things being equal, if you know who someone is you're more likely to believe what they say, because they are more accountable.


Exactly, which proves the point Grift, Sara, and I are making: it's not about the NAME, it's about the PERSON - knowing who they are, what their affiliations are, their history, etc. When you know that stuff, it doesn't matter if their byline is their given name or a pen name. So you just proved our point.

lazermike said...

No, I think lucid's point is different -- or at least mine is. The name makes a difference because the person is more likely to be accountable, which is what makes it more credible.

And I don't understand this double standard on lumping everyone together. If its unfair to denigrate all bloggers because of Andre, why do you denigrate all newspapers because of Jayson Blair and his friends?

Look, if I need some work done on my house, I can use the guy at the business recommended by my home warranty company or I can use the guy who knocks on my door offering to do some odd jobs. I have no idea at the outset who is better -- the guy walking door to door may be an excellent handyman, and the guy from the service may be a thief -- but one thing the service guy has is accountability: I know where to find him, and if he does a bad job or something wrong he could lose his job, or his company could lose business, or the home warranty company could cut its ties with him. The guy who knocks on the door could just disappear, never to be heard from again. This may be an imperfect analogy -- aren't they all -- but to me the guy who I can identify, the guy with something to lose, and the guy who has an organization with even more to lose behind him, is more credible at the outset. And the fact that some legit companies do crappy work or cheat their customers or steal their jewelry doesn't change that.

Amber said...

And I don't understand this double standard on lumping everyone together. If its unfair to denigrate all bloggers because of Andre, why do you denigrate all newspapers because of Jayson Blair and his friends?


I don't advocate for denigration but rather for healthy skepticism - of all content re: politics, law, etc. regardless of medium.

lazermike said...

I agree with that. But what do you do with your skepticism? How do you confirm what you read?

Amber said...

I agree with that. But what do you do with your skepticism? How do you confirm what you read?

By looking at the writer's record (their other work), taking into consideration other information about the writer that might be pertinent (such as if they got paid by a particular company they're writing about), comparing and contrasting their work w/ other writing on the subject matter - that kind of thing.

In grad school I was a TA for a computer literacy course and we did we class on media literacy where we covered this stuff (in the context of sources to cite for research papers, etc) - but I think there should have been an entire course devoted to it, and more people (not just college students) should be educated in media literacy.

lazermike said...

That sounds exhausting. And where do you check the underlying facts contained in the article? If you don;t have fist-hand knowledge, or know someone who has, you eventually have t trust a source of information. Maybe you retain a healthy skepticism, but sometimes you let go and let God.

This whole debate started because poor lucid said that all things being equal, he thinks an anonymous source of information is less reliable than a known source. That's what Ken wrote, too. I know there are anonymous bloggers who have built up credibility. I know there are known writers who have made shit up. And I know that many of you have legitimate reasons for staying anonymous. But why can't you accept the trade-off?

If a newspaper (or a blogger) quotes a "campaign insider" or a "person with knowledge of the situation," to me that's less reliable than one who quotes a named source. I don't get why that's wrong.

lazermike said...

Sorry, that should be "first-hand knowledge," but please enjoy the image.

Amber Rhea said...

This whole debate started because poor lucid said that all things being equal, he thinks an anonymous source of information is less reliable than a known source. That's what Ken wrote, too.

And that's what Grift, Sara, I, and many others have said, too. The only difference is we're saying what matters is that the person is a KNOWN SOURCE, not whether or not their byline is their real name or a pseudonym.

I am utterly baffled that this debate continues to go on?

Re: exhausting, things that are worth it are rarely quick and easy.

Sara said...

Y'all are making my head hurt.

The Jayson Blair thing stings, I can tell. I brought it up precisely to make you feel the same reflexive sting that we all feel over Andre's stupidity and how it will make it easier for the media to continue to shit all over bloggers. I don't pretend the situations are the same and I don't think the entire media is less credible simply because of one bad reporter at the NY Times.

I think the fundamental disconnect we are having here is that we are not saying that mainstream media has no credibility. We are saying that while it might be a natural reflex, when you dig down there is no real reason to correlate a full name with credibility and a pseudonym or partial name with being a hack. People who write under their full name fuck up all the time, and people who blog under a pseudonym absolutely bust their ass to triple fact check and source their stories. Like, say, our host for this here comments thread. And knowing how hard he works before he runs with something, it pisses me off to have people suggest that he should not be taken as seriously or be presumed to have as much integrity simply because he blogs as griftdrift.

I have a hangover though, so all that up there may be garbage.

griftdrift said...

Okay I think we've wandered pretty far astray here.

Mike I get your points. And I agree with them to a degree.

But I think Sara hit on the central point.

It's not necessarily the anonymous thing itself. Its the continued use of it as a cudgel.

It would be as if everytime any one questioned the credibility of a paper we all went around screaming "JAYSON BLAIR! JAYSON BLAIR!".

We can have an honest conversation about the conventions in the online vs the real world and their implications. But the difference is, at least it seems this way to us, is eerytime there is a discussion of bloggers this becomes the primary issue.

It wears us out and frankly it is lazy. It is the bugbear of the slothful who use it as a convenient excuse to hand wave away all in one fell swoop.

And that's a fact jack.

Amber Rhea said...

I brought it up precisely to make you feel the same reflexive sting that we all feel over Andre's stupidity and how it will make it easier for the media to continue to shit all over bloggers.

YES.

Often, teaching by showing is the most effective method.

lazermike said...

Thanks, Grift. I always stray far afield.

OK, here's the part I want to make clear: I don't think I said anything against bloggers. I don't have anything against bloggers. I wrote about anonyminity because that's what we're talking about. I don't think I used it in any way to cast aspersions on bloggers, or anyone else. I don't think Ken did, either.

Sara said...

OK, but who do you mean to say has less credibility when discussing anonymous writers, if not bloggers?

I haven't seen any anonymous stories in the newspapers, that I can recall.

Amber Rhea said...

And given the fact that the thing that supposedly prompted all this - Andre's lack of disclosure -is totally irrelevant bc Andre was not anonymous, makes me question KE's timing of his post. It looks like an excuse to slag off bloggers based on his existing biases.

lazermike said...

Well, exactly.

But seriously, it's not like I'm picking on bloggers and using anonyminity as a reason why I don't like them or why they're no good or whatever. I read a number of blogs and find some of them indispensible. In fact, Metsblog (I'm a fan) is consistently as reliable if not more so than many of the New York papers. What lucid wrote was all things equal, an anonymous source is a less credible source. I agree with that, and if that implicates bloggers more than other media, than so it does. If he wrote that something light and portable was more convenient to take in the bathroom with you than something heavy and plugged in, I would agree too, and not because I needed an excuse to say that a book is better than television.

We can disagree about the effects of anonyminity. I guess we do. But please don't think that it was me using as Grift calls it an old canard (or a cudgel) so I can attack bloggers.

lazermike said...

Amber's last post, by the way, is exactly right -- anonyminity is irrelevant to the issue with Peach Pundit.

Ken Edelstein said...

I'm a bit wary of wading in. How about trying to take these comments at face value, y'all?

Griftdrift: I wish you'd actually linked to my first post in your first post rather than just publishing the one paragraph without the link. That way people could have seen that it was an afterthought -- the 16th paragraph in a 19 paragraph post. And in the second post, the subject is raised only as the last, brief question.

But I raised the anonymity issue because Andre Walker's conflict of interest could only be identified if one knew his name. Meanwhile, there are other bloggers — particularly on Peach Pundit — who do political consulting and are anonymous. I thought decaturguy and APN did good work in uncovering Andre's conflicts of interest. But if Andre used a handle and Matthew Cardinale didn't know his name, he'd be less likely to have figured out that conflict of interest. Using handles isn't wrong, in my opinion; it's just a bit more opaque. Does anybody actually disagree with that?

So Mike, there's the connection -- tangential, secondary, not the central issue to this little scandal. But, hey, it certainly seemed to end up being the hot topic of conversation!

And it still seems to me a fair question -- not at all intended to offend or even to question the practice of using handles.

At the end of the day, griftdrift, I'm not sure that you disagree with the substance of what I said -- at least from your comments here and on Fresh Loaf. It seems to me that your more upset because other "print" journalists have said similar things -- or worse. But it's just as wrong to lump me in with Julia Wallace and/or Jayson Blair, as it would be for me to lump you in with Andre Walker. And if you actually read what I wrote, I didn't imply that any bloggers did anything unethical, except for Andre.

Anyway, the "old media" vs. bloggers thing has an us-vs.-them tone that seems exaggerated. I know that there's a difference between working for an established print organization and doing your own independent blog, but the differences are getting gray in a lot of areas. In my opinion, Travis is one of the best bloggers in Georgia. Griftdrift: I've long thought you've brought the kind of reasoned insight to your blog that more "journalists" should bring.

Except, to be perfectly honest, I think you jumped to a conclusion in this case.

griftdrift said...

Maybe Ken. Maybe. After re-reading what you wrote and your subsequent explanations, I understand how a handle would have made sussing out the FEC report more difficult.

So I guess I did jump to a conclusion. And its not excuse but when you've been hit with that particular flame so many times one gets a bit jumpy.

And ultimately I think all of this discussion is a very very good thing and I think we've all continued to discover exactly how we are going to interact.

What I really wish is if we could have some kind of summit in person. It works because I've seen it. The first time Amber, Rusty and I went to the APC we met with an openly hostile crowd. The next time we went 90% of the room nodded their head at our points. So there is a way to sort all of this out.

As far as lumping, I won't lump if you don't lump. Detente?

Oh and I think Travis is pretty good too. (Blake too but don't tell him I said that).

Also the lack of link was an oversight. Thanks for pointing that out. Its now fixed.

griftdrift said...

And another thing. Don't think for a moment we don't approve of skepticism. Hell, in some cases we are probably more skeptical than you.

I personally have something I call the "asshole rule". I won't link to a new blog for ten days. This gives me time to see if they are truly a good citizen or just some agenda driven fly by night operation. Currently there's one out there which I will not link to because its my belief its sole purpose is to criticize a particular candidate in this particular election cycle.

We do understand how the system can be abused and we do have a healthy skepticism but the recognition that needs to be reciprocated is that we are usually quick to sniff them out and act accordingly.

Ed said...

"I think we've all continued to discover exactly how we are going to interact."

So not at all then?

Ken Edelstein said...

Griftdrift: Sounds good to me - Ken