Two noteworthy items today via Romenesko, which is not a buffet of stupid for once:
One of my favorite writers, Paul Salopek of the Trib, gets a big prize. Salopek’s stories unfold like novels, compelling, human, with leads that ring in your head for days. I’ll read anything he writes. Good to see people who do hard jobs well getting rewarded.
Of course, my words are protected by the full faith and credit of the San Francisco Chronicle, which is, as you know, either a tool of big money interests or a blatantly liberal propaganda rag, depending on which letter writer you read. And yet, despite both the pajamas and my editors at The Chronicle, I have printed things that were not true. I once wrote something about Jerry Brown that was so not true that I ran around the house screaming “oh my God” when I found out about it. I retracted the lie and apologized. This is how humans operate. We don’t expect perfection; we expect decency. (Note to Robert Novak: decency. Try to remember that.)
Bloggers are just columnists without newspapers. Some bloggers, like Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, are more like reporters with newspapers. The idea that there should be a different legal standard for them is ludicrous. This is all free speech, and this is all journalism. There are fewer newspapers, but there are more blogs. There is a net gain in information. This is a good thing.
The mainstream media has been very slow to accept the world of cyberspace. Because I got online very early, there was a whole decade in which I got to pick up stories that were lying around on the ground like emeralds. I heard about the wonders of the computer game Myst online, and wangled two cover stories for Wired magazine out of that data point. I heard about the Patrick O’Brian Aubrey-Maturin series online, and my praise was one of the key events in bringing O’Brian into general literary consciousness. I heard about the movie “Rivers and Tides” online, and my column about it allowed Roxie Cinema to get national distribution for this now beloved documentary.
I even, early on, predicted that e-mail would be an important part of American life. That crackpot idea was greeted with the silence it deserved. There were visionaries who thought that a pairing between newspapers and Web sites — even, gasp, giving away content for free online — would be a good idea. They were referred to the “let’s build a colony on Mars” department.
Well, the secret’s out. The stand-alone journalists are here, and they are digging out facts and leading crusades. They are also printing gossip and distorting facts — but hey, so are we. It is about time that all the media folks began working together for the common good, defending reporters and bloggers in trouble and, by the way, outing our own when they mess up.
Today I seek to defend the humble pajama, the subject of vicious rumors and unsubstantiated rumors in hallowed halls of justice. Let he who is without sin throw the first nightcap.
A net-savvy columnist with the balls to admit that he and his fellow print hacks are not free of error any more than bloggers are. Let us all now praise Jon Carroll.