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Blogs and Journalistic Standards

According to Howie, right-wing conservatives say that mainstream journalists are anti-military and have been since Vietnam. I must be reading the wrong papers and watching the wrong news channels. Seems to me that journalists, for the most part, admire the military, and routinely salute our troops and describe how much danger and hardship they endure. No, it's right-wing conservatives that mainstream journalists can't stand.

Wait, I apologize for that. I retract that. I got that from a trusted source who turned out to be a disinformation agent.

Which leads me toMike Getler's ombudsman column , in which he makes an important point: A news organization's journalistic standards should be consistent. He notes that at Newsweek, "Periscope" items tend to come in late in the week and don't have as many layers of editing. "This is another pitfall for news organizations that have more relaxed rules for one section than others."

This raises the question of the standards that should apply to blogs and online discussions. A blog or a chat is almost by definition something more spontaneous, personal, direct, raw, unfiltered, unconscionable and morally reprehensible. What we like about blogs is the sense that, at any moment, someone will say something that will incite a riot somewhere, or at least, could incite a riot if the blog had any actual readers.

The Newsweek fiasco is a reminder that anything, even something as small and fundamentally pathetic as a "Periscope" item, can blow up in an organization's face. So naturally one might wonder if these blogs and chats that we have online here are just a bunch of accidents waiting to happen. If something were to appear in this space that caused a problem somewhere in the world, for example a nuclear conflagration leaving much of the Eurasian continent a glowing wasteland, no one would care that the writer taps it out when not doing his real job. (Wasn't it Von Drehle who called this thing a bunch of "toenail clippings"?) No one would care that it is technically a publication of, an entirely separate company, headquartered in a different state, from The Washington Post proper (or is it a publication of Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive? -- I'll check).

Thus I assume that this blog represents "The Washington Post." I will often post items unedited, but always ask Sydney or Tom to look over my shoulder. The chats are a different matter. The chats are a time bomb, particularly Weingarten's.

By Joel Achenbach  |  May 23, 2005; 11:25 AM ET
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Next: Hanging Up the Toga For Now


So you're saying no digital brawls over race and class.

Posted by: Ahem | May 23, 2005 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Por gentileza qualo camino a pesquisar sobre o perfil de um Jornalista estrangeiro.
Sou aluna de Jornalismo da FIB- Centro Universitário da Bahia - Brasil
Aguardo resposta o mais breve.

Posted by: Paulinha | May 23, 2005 12:50 PM | Report abuse

Good call, closing the comments on the "Class Differences" entry. Thank you for saving us from ourselves. Yes indeed, we will consider ourselves warned.

Posted by: Achenfan | May 23, 2005 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Saving us from ourselves? He was saving himself from us. Who can blame him? It was, after all, quite a brawl and he might have got beaten up if he jumped in the fray. Plus, such frays are not the stuff of the Achenblog. Shutting the door and turning out the lights is a good choice in that case.

Posted by: Fan Fanatic | May 23, 2005 1:46 PM | Report abuse


Could 'blogging' be to 'journalism', as 'commenting' is to 'writing'?

"I say we head back to the mother ship and nuke the site from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."
- E. Ripley (probably misquoted out of my very foggy memory)


Posted by: bc | May 23, 2005 1:58 PM | Report abuse

Okay, I was kinda scared about the hothouse of foul tempers the race and class blog had become. But it wasn't so bad--all the name calling, vitriol, accusations of treachery! It was kinda fun, you know? I didn't mean to be a crybaby and actually cause Joel to show up and do something about it. Well, he did something about it. And now we know it was in the name of journalistic standards and blog integrity. How cool is that?

Posted by: Trepidation | May 23, 2005 2:00 PM | Report abuse

Saving himself, saving us; it doesn't really matter. We're all in this together, right?

Posted by: Dreamer | May 23, 2005 2:00 PM | Report abuse

We're all in this together. Aaah. How sweet. How utopian. I think he shut down the darn thing because it was starting to go in circles. Yeah. I guess you're right. Who was or wasn't being 'saved' doesn't matter.

Posted by: Fan Fanatic | May 23, 2005 2:07 PM | Report abuse

Wait until the right wingers get a whiff of this. There'll be Normans de-mucking and sniping and scurrying away all over the place. They might even leave a roach wing or little furry leg scale behind so we'll know they were here. Oh, I forgot. We've been warned about inciting humorless discord on blogs.

Posted by: Ashtanga | May 23, 2005 2:15 PM | Report abuse

In all the hoohah about Newsweek "causing the death of 16 people", I have heard very few people point out that those folks were killed by rioting Muslims, not homicidal copy editors. Shouldn't we ascribe the bulk of the responsibility to those who actually did the deed? Violence may be predictable but it is not inevitable, and those who perform the violent acts do have a choice in the matter.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | May 23, 2005 3:01 PM | Report abuse

I stand by my comments. They weren't that militant. I mean, sheesh, SOMEONE had to regulate against the Aryan Brotherhood sympathizer, Norman.

Just glad I got in the last word.

OK, now let's talk about Kylie Minogue's breast cancer.

Posted by: mellohush | May 23, 2005 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The last word for now.
Norman, and people like him are still out there and ever will be in my life time.
Best I can do is arm myself with an understanding of them. And the obtuse, self-serving proclamations of some brain stem-challenged right wing conservatives.

Posted by: Ashtanga | May 23, 2005 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Didn't The New York Times and Judith Miller get crucified for believing too much what the White House was saying about WMD's?

How is that in anyway anti-military?

Posted by: Thomas | May 23, 2005 3:45 PM | Report abuse

hook: a device esp. in music or writing that catches the attention

-- Webster's dictionary

Posted by: Anonymous | May 23, 2005 4:26 PM | Report abuse

The anti-military charge tends to surface like a self-serving Proclamation of the Month. It is a shape-shifting creature of sorts. When the WMD fiasco blew up in their faces the administration attempted to finesse and bookend it with another self-serving proclamation: it declared the official end of the conflict spawned by that quest for phantom weaponry. And how well did that serve them? Oh, the shame. Oh the loss of face. Oh the loss of credibility. Not to mention the most painful of all, the loss of thousands of lives. Mainstream journalists should be the least of their worries.

Posted by: Ashtanga | May 23, 2005 4:39 PM | Report abuse

so what's your hook, Posted by: ?

Posted by: Fan Fanatic | May 23, 2005 4:42 PM | Report abuse

Not my hook, Joel's hook. The hook is what usually lands him in trouble.

Posted by: Posted by: | May 23, 2005 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Oh, I see. . . . Yes, well, I like that broad-stroking, outrageous rabble-rousing quality about him.

Posted by: Fan Fanatic | May 23, 2005 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I am disappointed that the rabble didn't get very roused today. I liked the brawl on Friday, though I did feel the need to terminate it eventually, on grounds of repetition. Tomorrow I will post something infuriating and irresponsible.

Posted by: Achenbach | May 23, 2005 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Quite the feeding frenzy we had here Friday. Before too long, old Yardleyboy would have been cannibalized. I don't know about others, but I'm pretty exhausted after that colorized fist fight in the class blog. Everything else--conversatives, clever, metal-mouthed teenagers blogging back, journalistic integrity--seems to pale by comparison (no pun intended). I'm too tired to get rowdy about the poor state of adjunct pay. The politics of color makes some people a little crazy. Joel, didn't you ask us to behave, to reign ourselves in, not to mess things up for you or the Washington Post? So we've been quiet and civilized today. As King Achenfan said, we've been warned.

Posted by: Glass House | May 23, 2005 9:06 PM | Report abuse

Can anyone claim to be Achenbach? Just testing this commment thingy.

Posted by: Achenbach | May 24, 2005 12:31 AM | Report abuse

(Actually, it's Queen Achenfan, not King.)

Posted by: Achenfan | May 24, 2005 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Of course anyone can claim to be Achenbach, but anyone who is not Achenbach will write in an inauthentic manner, failing to use such words as "bodacious" and "flibbertygibbet."

Posted by: Achenbach | May 24, 2005 3:33 PM | Report abuse

By the same token, can Achenbach claim to be anyone? Fan Fanatic sounds an awful lot like him.

Posted by: Tom fan | May 24, 2005 3:50 PM | Report abuse

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