One of the common complaints from people in journalism about bloggers is that we just comment on reports in the news, we don't do original reporting. It's so often repeated it's become a cliche, but it's simply not true and I can prove it.
Draw a continuum of different kinds of news, at the left edge put a dot and label it "Event." At the extreme right edge put "Commentary." On the line between those two extremes, somewhere put a circle and label it "Reporting."
No one questions that bloggers produce writing that belongs at the right edge of the continuum, but then so do pros. That's editorial and op-ed pages. People like Frank Rich, Maureen Dowd, David Broder, Krugman -- in days gone by James Reston, Russell Baker (my childhood role model). Think of it as shared territory between pros and amateurs.
At the left edge, bloggers win hands-down. We have far more original sources blogging than the pros have writing in their pages. Over time, as the thirst for news goes up and the volume provided by the pros goes down, expect to see more. The thirst to be heard has always been high, and this is fueling the explosion of blogging at this edge.
Now, if you're a regular reader of Scripting News, you see us do investigative reporting all the time. And I'm not using the plural in a regal sense, I very much do mean "us" -- as in me and you and a whole lot of other people. For example, in December, after seeing Tweetree, and having put a lot of work into systematizing thumbnail generation (with the ongoing help of a reader, who lives in Turkey), I wanted to connect the two. So I proposed a way to do that. Immediately a flood of comments probing my decision, and a number of suggestions that I look at work done by others that I hadn't found when I looked. Now this process is not trivial, it's the equivalent of a reporter making dozens of phone calls to experts. Sure, I'm not probing their ethics, looking for malfeasance, whether or not they're bugging Watergate, or stealing funds from taxpayers or widows, instead -- they're doing that to me. Which I've learned to live with, and see as a good thing. I know my heart is pure, but they don't, at least not at first. They are right to be suspicious of a fellow technologist. Many are corrupt. I've writen about that here. (Part of the reason there's so much corruption, btw, is that the professional press including some of the pubs we all revere, have been playing footsy with the industry for a long time. But that's another story, one often told here, btw, which has gotten me a rep with the press for being an "irascible gadfly.")
Anyway, a comment left here by a reader in December bothered me, so I looked into it and found he had something, so I revised my approach, and published the revision here, on Friday. Then another reader suggested I use a format that Digg had proposed, and I agreed, so -- another revision. Now here's a key point, in all the reporting I had done up till this point, I had never stumbled across this. It hadn't been reported on by pros as far as I could tell, and up till that point, none of my readers knew about it either. Is this an investigative process? Absolutely. Is it journalism? I don't see how it's any different from the best journalism done by the pros, except 1. it's done out in the open, that's an essential element, and 2. it's being done by people who do it for reasons other than being paid, directly, for it. To trivialize those reasons is to ignore why people want knowledge, to ignore the motivations of the sources and the readers, both of whom are essential to the news processs (though the journos are often loathe to acknowledge this), and neither of whom are paid for their efforts.
But even then the story is not over. Another reader says there's a mistake, the format wasn't authored by Digg, it was actually authored by Facebook! I did a bit of investigation and couldn't find a claim that they authored it, or a news report, but I did determine that they supported it, by doing a test, that worked. We saw a citation on the Digg site that said that Facebook was the source, so that was good enough for me, and I revised my piece accordingly. (I allow myself that until the day closes, then if I want to revise I have to write another piece, like the one I'm doing now, that's why serious stories on Scripting News tend to come in a series.)
Finally I published a "cap" to the series, and reported on the significance of all this work. A full week of work, with lots of human contact, research, sourcing, fact checking. I'm sure there will be some who say this doesn't belong in the circle in the middle of the continuum above, and I'm sure we'll get ample opportunity to discuss that, and learn from each other.
Even though I'm not an economist, I'm pretty sure that the US government can print money.
So if we have a $1 trillion deficit this year, that does not imply that someone has to lend us $1 trillion and it does not imply therefore that someone will have to pay someone back that money at some date in the future. If there's an economist listening who thinks this is not true, please say so and everyone else ignore what I'm about to say.
So then why does the discussion on Meet The Press and This Week revolve around how much better the private sector could spend the money or how we're passing on the problem to future generations. That seems like hooey. They have these discussions based on a make-believe premise that there are only two ways for the US government to pay for something -- taxation or borrowing. There is a third way, the one they're taking -- they just invent the money.
Now, in normal times you pay for this invention with inflation, but inflation isn't a problem -- quite the opposite, the world economy is having a massive going out of business sale. Prices are going down. Think they're low this week? Wait till next week, they'll be even lower. And wait is what people do, and that drives the prices lower. It's like inflation in reverse. Worrying about inflation now is like a starving man worrying about getting fat if he eats too much. You'll take your calories any way you can get them. Anything that makes people want to buy things now is a good thing for the economy. One way to do that is to give them money by hiring them.
So forgive me for thinking the analysts on TV are either corrupt or idiots, or whatever.
And of course please forgive me if I'm wrong and the government isn't going to print money to get out of this hole.
I happened to trip over this Youtube video of John Lennon, Paul Simon and Andy Williams at the Grammies in (I think) 1975. They're announcing the winner of the Best Song, I think -- as usual Lennon is very funny and wry, and Simon is funny too.
1. There's a surprise guest toward the end, I won't spoil the fun by saying who it is, but we might spill the beans in the comments, so if you don't like spoilers watch the video before reading the comments.
2. Either John Lennon was short or Paul Simon is standing on a box. It's weird how a lot of famous people are really short, but you never find out until they stand next to someone who you know is short.
3. I don't get the joke about "dawn" -- Lennon says: "So this is what Dawn does." Dawn of Tony Orlando and Dawn? Hmm.
4. Weren't they both disapponted that Olivia Newton-John won? The competition was so good, Elton John, Roberta Flack, Joni Mitchell, Maria Muldaur.
5. Muldaur's song, her only hit, Midnight At The Oasis, also played a big role in the fabulous movie, Lost In Translation.
6. Unrelated, on NPR yesterday I heard that Enya has sold 70 million albums and lives in a castle in Ireland and is not lonely.
It's amazing to me, the Twitter Status Report and Twitter Spewage Report are both still running. You leave those background projects around and they just don't go away.
I wonder sometimes how long after I die will some "Dave Winer code" be running somewhere on this planet? It could be over very quickly, or you never know, maybe some of my code will run a long time. I, of course, won't be around to find out.
Anyhoo, here are the links...
And here's the blog post in April last year announcing the spew report. It was shortly after this that Twitter started becoming unreliable. Wonder if there's a correlation? Heh. That's supposed to be a joke. Okay sorry.
Dave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California. "The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web. "Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.
"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.
"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.
Dave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
"The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.
"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.
"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.
My most recent trivia on Twitter.
© Copyright 1997-2009 Dave Winer.
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