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First POST: Can the Machine Fix Itself?

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, April 23 2013

After Boston, analyzing the media

  • Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys lost his job in the wake of his coverage of Boston on social media. He said in a statement on his Tumblr that he and his union are disputing his dismissal.

  • Reddit General Manager Erik Martin apologized on behalf of the Reddit community for its part in an online "witch hunt" that mistakenly identified a missing college student as a possible suspect in the bombing.

  • Joe Pompeo wisely adds:

    The speed of the newsgathering effort, and the instantness of its transmission, makes the process of news reporting public. If that's desirable, then we'll see plenty of "mistakes" that are simply a once-hidden element of the process. Reporters used to hypothesize, gather "facts," attempt to duplicate sources for those facts, find contradictions, then finally resolve them and decide what to publish. In the current, transparent version of the process, it would be surprising not to find hypotheses (or "speculation"), falsehoods, contradictions and paradoxes, and corrections. Readers (at least some of them) seem to prefer it this way.

  • Michael Wolff goes for the tired professionals-versus-amateurs argument: "At the heart of all this may lie a fundamental competition between amateurs and professionals, or between new technologies and old infrastructures."

  • Jeff Jarvis writes: "The key skill of journalism today is saying what we *don’t* know, issuing caveats and also inviting the public to tell us what they know. Note I didn’t say I want the public to tell us what they *think* or *guess.* I said *know*."

    Which is a curious thing to suggest about a profession which exalts those who find answers to difficult, widely held questions. The key skill of journalism is identifying and verifying facts, not leading readers into a Rumsfeld-esque universe of unknown knowns and known unknowns. That's a lot harder in a breaking news situation because there is so much that isn't known for certain. And, yes, inviting members of the public to become sources is helpful. But good journalism is active — pursuing and verifying specific facts — rather than passive — waiting, as Pompeo quotes Ali Velshi as saying in his piece linked above, for someone with an agenda to offer information that paints an incomplete picture.

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Miranda Neubauer contributed reporting.