Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 8, 2009

Cheapened by parasitic blogging

Filed under: General Homeland Security — by Philip J. Palin on August 8, 2009

Back in May a Yale senior interviewed me for her final paper in a foreign correspondent course.  She was interviewing several bloggers  and asked each of us, “Do you consider yourself a journalist?”  I was, she told me, the only one who responded, “No.”

I explained that I am an aggregator, a commentator, and — on a few good days — an analyst.  But I very seldom gather, research, and — more importantly — confirm original information, all of which I perceive to be the very tough — in some places, dangerous — work of real journalists.

This morning this old conversation came to mind while  reading last Sunday’s Washington Post (six days later). 

I have just returned from twelve days of travel. When traveling I depend on my web-based algorithms for details and a scan of the Washington Post, New York Times, and  San Francisco Chronicle homepages for  a quick overview.

But nothing equals a real newspaper (and today too many printed versions can seem practically virtual) with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and some quiet time to read, reflect, and connect those dots from pages A1, A6, C2, and the ad in the sports section.

I am barely half-way through a week-old Post and have already picked up a dozen valuable inputs that I would have otherwise lost.

I depend upon — and everyone who reads my posts depends upon — Daniel Fowler at CQ, Spencer Hsu at the Post, Eileen Sullivan at AP, Chris Strohm at the National Journal Group and others.  Everyday I am simply silent regarding — and too often blatantly ignorant of — important information that these professionals are reporting out.

This riff on the importance of real journalism is prompted by Ian Shapira’s essay in the August 2, Washington Post Outlook Section.  It is entitled, Do me a favor: At least blog this.  The online version is called, The Death of Journalism. It is a report and analysis of how the significant investment in and considerable value of one piece of  journalism was appropriated and cheapened through parasitic blogging. (For what I have done and left undone, forgive me.)

Toward the end of the piece it seems to me that Shapira starts toward — but then backs away from — an assessment of what a certain kind of blogging (all blogging?) does to the economic ecology of journalism.  He does not say it, but I perceive the expectation that information should be free-of-cost is causing a commercial and cultural devaluing of  information, knowledge, and even wisdom. 

Writing this blog is good self-discipline. My professional life requires attention to HS related news, blogging reinforces the care I bring to the task.  It can also be — as with yesterday’s post on making meaning — a happy indulgence.  But from time to time I am haunted by Samuel Johnson’s warning, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, but for money.” 

On the weekends HLSWatch has fewer than half, sometimes less than twenty percent, our weekday readers.  But here are three promises and an ask of you:

1.  I will not just use links to attribute sources. I will consistently identify sources early and often in my text. I have been inconsistent in this regard.

2.  I will  use restraint in quoting from the work of others and, whenever possible, will deploy quotes in such a way to encourage  accessing the original source. I hope I have usually done this.

3.  I will acknowledge reporters by name, not just by the name of their employing organization.  I will find opportunities to express appreciation.  I have done this too seldom.

When reading my posts I ask that  you access original resources and while you are there, give some quick consideration of the time, effort, and cost involved in generating the information provided to you, and even look at the advertisements.  Consider it a secular version of doing the stations of the cross, to remind us that what is truly valuable almost always comes at considerable cost.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 8, 2009 @ 11:35 am

Actually I posted a somewhat lengthy comment on the “Death of Journalism.” I too find the hard copy version an instinctual and intellectual pleasure. But being in a rural area finally have mostly abandoned hard copy except for library forays and gifts from friends. While the formal rules of blogging have not stabilized clearly you have never in my opinion did what the blogger in the story did. Basically adopt the substance and position of the journalists story without attribution. That to me is just plain theft not just plagarism. I cannot imagine the academic world now when the internet has made it both easy and yet far more difficult to understand how the reality of history and the world (the universe) is evolving. Let’s face it –in the final analysis we all have quirks and prejudices that shine through our writing. Yet there is definitely a pleasure in seeing our thoughts laid out. The question whether there was thinking before language always intrigued me. I think yes but cannot articulate exactly how. I do think that the interactive nature of blogging is a strength as is WAPO and other newspapers allowing comments on articles and opinions to be filed. My hope is that the journalists and the bloggers read my comments, since they are the ones in control so to speak and when I respect them I want to influence them also. But also true that the other comments of readers I find very interesting sometimes and very educational. Being an extensive Sci-Fi reader from 4th through 10th grade the number of stories wherein EARTH had evolved a sort of wired brain utilizing the abilities of all the human race I like to think journalism first, then blogging are evolutionary steps on the way to that endpoint. In fact in many of the stories the Earth’s “Brain” was the reason it was saved from some alien or other destructive force. Sort of a friendlier version of “Forbidden Planet” with Robby the Robot(the real star) and the then young Leslie Neilsen. So here is to evolution without theft of the work of others. Being a mere copyist does not advance the force of humanity in its quests whatever they may be.

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August 9, 2009 @ 10:54 pm

[…] for the link economy Jump to Comments From a Philip Palin post at Homeland Security Watch (great blog, BTW): I have just returned from twelve days of travel. When traveling I depend on my […]

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