With Blogs vs. Traditional Media, Labels Should Not Dictate Trust
In a recent article, we asked, "Should mainstream media be held to different standards than bloggers when it comes to crediting sources?" This question stemmed from an incident in which Blogger Danny Sullivan broke a news story, only to have mainstream media publications run with it without giving him credit. This happens all the time with both blogs and mainstream media (both ways), but mainstream media outlets often point the finger at blogs for such practices, as if they do not ever engage in such practices.
Do you trust a news source more or less, based on whether it’s a blog or a traditional media source? Tell us why or why not.
You can read more about this particular incident here, and further commentary here and here, but at the heart of the matter lies this question: what separates a blog from a traditional media outlet, in terms of validity of content? The answer varies, depending on who you ask, but often, the response is related to trust and authority.
Blogs are an important part of our news report. On big, running news stories, like the oil spill, the earthquake in Haiti, the elections and so forth, they offer readers the most important, up-to-the-minute developments. Prescriptions, our blog on the health care overhaul, is a great example. It became the go-to site for developments on the complex legislation. There was more material than could fit into a fixed number of news stories, and it gave an outlet to our reporters to share what they were learning on a fast-paced story with many different tentacles.
It is not big revelation that the NYT is cool with blogs. The publication has its own blogs. Still, it’s good to see a mainstream media outfit talk about blogs in a positive manner. It’s too often the opposite.
Blogs can be more authoritative than traditional media, and even more trustworthy when it comes to specific niches. Why? Because such blogs are dedicated to covering their particular niche, and are more focused on one industry or topic. In the case of Search Engine Land, they are covering all things search, and you’d be hard pressed to find as solid coverage for that industry in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, or any other major media outlet. Yet some would simply write Search Engine Land off as a blog with the connotation that that somehow diminishes its credibility, which would simply be false. I’ve sat in the same press room with Sullivan, other "bloggers", as well as more "traditional" reporters, all asking questions to the same executives, and there was no discernible difference in how it was done. In this scenario, the "bloggers" and "reporters" were treated the same. This happens all the time.
Pete Cashmore, founder of the blog Mashable, spoke on a panel at SXSW a few months back, and said, "People need to become more educated consumers of news." I think he’s right about that, and no matter how you label a piece of content (blog or otherwise), you should not consider that label the basis of trust. Perhaps it’s unfortunate that the readers have to be put in the position in which they have to make the call on trust, but that’s just the way it is.
The words "don’t believe everything you read" have always been important, but with the influx of real-time information-sharing that we see today, they’re more important than ever. That said, focus on "blog vs. non-blog" is not the answer.
There is no reason to consider blogs (in general) inferior sources of information compared to traditional media. The media takes from blogs anyway (see Sullivan’s incident). To some mainstream media outlets, blogs are "an important part" of the report. That’s straight from the New York Times. And they’re not alone.
How do you establish trust with a news source? Tell us the things you take into account.