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Monitoring or Intimidating Reporters?

The Adopt a Reporter discussion continues at Jay Rosen’s PressThink.

Is it a good idea for citizen bloggers to monitor what reporters write with an eye for factual errors and perhaps contextual biases?

Of course, this nascent movement grows out of an unresponsive, impersonal press.

Suppose you are a Howard Dean supporter and you wonder along with Slate commentator Eric Boehlert if the media is unfair to Dean. The intro to Boehlert’s article reads:

Democrats haven’t voted yet, but reporters have got the story: The former Vermont governor is angry, gaffe-prone and unelectable. How do they know? Republicans, and anonymous Democrats, told them so.

Boehlert makes an extremely strong argument that the “can’t win” and “is angry” suppositions are not fact based. However, they are mantras that have, with some help from the Republic National Committee and the pundits, worked their in way into the mainstream press and get repeated so often that they sound like fact.

In the era before weblogs, Boehlert’s column would have been published and citizens could read it and accept or reject his argument. However, if they accepted the argument, they were powerless to do anything about it.

The public is no longer powerless. Individuals, like this one or this one, can monitor individual writers and deconstruct their body of work to watch the progression of thought that might have lead the individual reporters to come to the Dean is unelectable and angry conclusions.

The exercise might make the journalists more introspective and help them, if they are indeed wrong, see the error of their ways and help them become better reporters, writers and thinkers.

Of course, special interest groups would like nothing better than to hire a professional who dogs a critical reporter’s every word and uses that deconstruction to intimidate an aggressive reporter.

Problem is the genie is out of the bottle, maybe it is already too late to prevent a new wave of adopters who will turn into intimidators.

Of course, one way for the press to head off such attacks is to become more responsive and less defensive and to open real channels for citizens’ views to be heard and when they warrant to be acted upon.

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