Saturday, March 11, 2006

News is a Conversation: Do you trust blogs?

at the blogsite of the Spokane, Wash., Spokesman-Review
(daily newspaper)

Go to the original URL to check on updated responses to this post. The S-R
has taken the lead more than any other MSM daily paper in the United
States to involve readers in its daily news decisions. See: As part of the family-owned paper's effort to increase transparency in journalism, The Spokesman-Review has invited eight readers to talk about our news coverage and content on a daily basis: what they like, what they don't like, and what they'd like to see more of. The newspaper's inside bloggers articipate, but the readers lead the conversation.


Below Posted by Ken Paulman | 9 Mar 10:30 AM
(Paulman is employed by the paper as an inside blogger)

An interesting, if a bit esoteric, discussion has been bouncing around the newsroom the last couple of days. In Sunday's paper, we ran a news brief about a candidacy announcement that was attributed to Dave Oliveria's Huckleberries Online blog. Oliveria got the tip from a good source on background, posted it to his blog, and notified the newsroom. The reporter, who was already working his tail off to file two stories for Sunday's paper, wrote the brief using the blog as a source to meet editors' demands to get the story into the paper quickly.

Of course, we can't use ourselves as a source for a story. The conclusion was that we should have called the candidate for confirmation, and Oliveria acknowledges he should have included some information on the blog about how he heard the news. Bottom line: We hold all news to the same standards, regardless of whether it's online or in print. But that raises a question - do readers hold information they read on the Internet to a different standard? Do you trust a story more because it's in black-and-white on a sheet of newsprint, or does it make a difference? What about things like typos and grammatical errors?

There are 3 comments on this post.


This is a great question. I think the trust bestowed in blog information depends on two things-----the reader and the blog author. As a trained journalist, I look at who's doing the writing and what motivation they have to write it. In the case of Oliveria, I'm fairly familiar with his biases and with his journalistic professionalism. So, I find it easy to weed out the factual news from the obvious commentary.

If he presented news as fact on his blog, I'd probably trust the information because I would assume it had been verified. But then again, as a high school journalism instructor, I always taught never to ASSUME. When we approach blogs for information, we should approach them similarly to our approach to the TV talking heads. Most are representing a specific school of thought, so most may present specific information they want us to hear. In my own case, I have a blog that mixes facts with commentary. My journalistic training obliges me to make corrections if I find that I've provided inaccurate information. I want to maintain a sense of credibility for my readers. My pride as a journalist supersedes my passion for inflicting my opinions on others.

Now that I've talked about my approach to reading and writing blogs, I have to separate myself from the everyday reader/writer who may not have any journalistic training. Do they read the material on their favorite blogs with a sense of skepticism? Do they fastidiously research information before putting it on their blog. I do wonder about both. In a nutshell, the dissemination and digestion of information can be easily skewed by writer's professionalism and the reader's willingness to accept everything at its face value.

Posted by Mariannel | 9 Mar 11:33 AM


I'd love to know more about what drives reader trust. In poll after poll, TV news is named the most trusted information source. Is that because it is more in-depth, more diligent about sourcing, better about running corrections? I donÿÿt think so. Perhaps, podcasting would increase the credibility of papers and blogs, because the only explanation I can think of for why TV news is so trusted is that you can see the person delivering the information. They're like your friend (and their promotions play up that angle), and everyone trusts their friends, right?

So is being extra-diligent about sourcing a key to being trusted? TV news often gets information from newspapers without sourcing it. Doesn't appear to hurt their credibility.

Posted by Gary Crooks, associate editor | 10 Mar 10:48 AM


My general rule is that if the information appears in an accredited mode (i.e. newpaper, government website etc.) I will accept it as verified information. However, I do not trust information I receive from general websites and blogs because the author most likely has nobody to answer to other than him/herself. When the blog is contained within a source I trust (as in this blog), I still do not accept the information as fact unless the newspaper staff validates it somehow. Just printing it is not enough.

Posted by phil Bergin | 10 Mar 5:15 PM


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