Washington Post vs. Gawker #1: The Value-Add of Bloggers

Recently, there was some interesting give-and-take between Ian Shapira of the Washington Post and Gawker, regarding Gawker‘s use (and reuse) of one of Shapira’s articles.

Shapira mourns that he put in hard day’s work into a 1500-word article, which was then distilled and interpreted by Gawker in about a half an hour, with a small link at the bottom back to his article. His angst strikes me as reasonable, but Gawker’s attitude is sort of fair as well. You can easily see both sides

It does seem to me that if you are quoting from an online story for an online story, you should link for attribution up front, not way down at the end.

Shapira’s end result was a nice, neat article.

However …

We seem to have, as a culture, arrived at a point where we have learned, for good or for ill, not to trust any media reporting at face value. And in today’s hyper-connected world, we intuitively know we should cross-check reporting to evaluate the truth of something. But the truth can be slippery, so what we have learned to settle for is knowing what the author thinks of something, and why. That’s why traditional reporting alone is not quite as salable as it once was, why opinion-driven sites like The Huffington Post and Drudge are so successful, why blogs get so much traffic.

It is not just the specific partisan lean a site has; any bias appeals to someone. What matters is that they take a stance on the veracity and value of the subject they are reporting on.

Shapira, for example, was careful not to say whether he found “generational guru” Anne Loehr compelling, or full of bull-pucky. That is the specific piece of information Gawker’s article proffers, right in the title: ‘Generational Consultant’ Holds America’s Fakest Job. It’s perfectly fine for Gawker to take a stand, not be objective; we will give Gawker’s opinion the consideration we think it deserves.

But we are unable to weigh it against Shapiro’s opinion.

Shapira talks further about it in this Q&A, noting that if reporters had a habit of being strongly opinionated about their subjects, people would stop talking to them. He correctly points out that by writing the article the way he did, he allows it to appeal to a range of people with differing opinions, in a way that Gawker’s piece cannot.

His reasoning is compelling, and you can understand his frustration. But an opinion is a missing piece for the reader, and the blogs will fill it in, for whatever niche demographic they are trying to appeal to. The is the Long Tail for new reporting.

Blogs are performing a function the media is unable to do, and it is costing newspapers money.

Next time I’ll tell you how this can make money for the newspaper industry.

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One Comment on “Washington Post vs. Gawker #1: The Value-Add of Bloggers”

  1. […] By Gravity Things work that way because the universe wants them to « Washington Post vs. Gawker #1: The Value-Add of Bloggers The NFL is a Pile of Boring. […]

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