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Reporter's conflict of interest
By Dave Winer on Thursday, September 08, 2011 at 9:56 AM.

A picture named elephant.gifI mentioned in passing the other day the conflict of interest reporters have re bloggers.  #

I'm pretty sure I've written about this before, but it deserves a re-visit, in a little more detail. #

First, you have to accept this premise: #

1. Reporters get paid a salary to report. #

2. In general bloggers do not get paid. #

Now I don't believe they do the same thing, and if you're going to rebut me by saying that they don't do the same thing, forget it, because I agree with you. (Also, some people who call themselves bloggers are paid to write. I don't think they are bloggers. But there's nothing I can do to stop them from calling themselves bloggers.) #

With those recitals out of the way... #

I see the bloggers as sources. Not all of them, and not for all reporters. But the people who reporters quote, more often than not these days, have blogs.  #

The relationship between reporters and bloggers is the same relationship that travel agents have to flights or hotel rooms. Reporters facilitate access to the sources. And to the extent that we can go direct to the sources' blogs, that interferes with #1 above.  #

In the old days the reporters had an exclusive on access to sources. Today that exclusive is gone. #

So if we were to respect blogs, that serves to undermine #1.  #

So the reporters have an interest in their readers not respecting blogs. #

There's the conflict. #

It's the same conflict my travel agent (who I have not spoken to in 20 years) had about the prospect of me using Expedia to book my own flights. She had to believe she was doing something special that I could not do for myself.  #

When I was finally able to do it for myself, this is what I learned about booking my own trips: #

1. It takes a lot more of my time to do it.  #

2. But it takes less time as I learn how to do it and the sites become more accomodating to a person such as myself. #

3. I generally end up spending a lot less money, and get more of what I want. #

4. I think the travel industry has adapted, and have products that more suit the traveler, now that they no longer have to serve the interests of travel agents (My agent loves golf. That's probably why I ended up staying at resorts with great golfing. I don't golf myself.) #

Anyway, all this is why I don't expect blogs and blogging to get fair treatment from professional reporters.  #

PS: And this is not their only conflict. They can't report on the media industry without a conflict. That's the industry they work for. Too bad, because they have great access, and it's a very important industry going through great changes. They could tell us how it really works, instead of reporting the company line, or ignoring it altogether (more common). I once had a big argument with Dan Gillmor over this, when he was working for Knight-Ridder. They were in the news. I wanted him to tell us what was going on. He wouldn't do it.  #

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