Paul Quinn’s Weblog

News from Ole Miss and Oxford

Scruggs case and the debate reporters vs. bloggers

Posted by paulquinn on June 23, 2008

Mississippi Public Broadcast reporter Sandra Knispel had a story this morning that delves into the issue of bloggers vs. reporters, she spoke with www.folo.us blogger Tom Freeland and David Rossmiller over at http://www.insurancecoverageblog.com/.

Both bloggers bashed print media and boasted how bloggers covered the Dickie Scruggs case far better than any newspaper covering the story.  While I can not deny bloggers were able to get news out faster than newspapers, I don’t really think bloggers have done a better job.

When someone decides to make a post on their blog they write it, maybe they read it and then put it on-line. There are no copy editor’s to revise posts, no editor to decide the newsworthiness of a story, and it tends to be very subjective.  A fact Rossmiller or Freeland admits to. News is supposed to influence public perception, but through reporting the facts and letting readers decide what they think. In my opinion blogs influenced people against Scruggs well before all the facts of the case came to light, whatever happened to innocent until proven guilty? 

Because bloggers have nobody to answer to, getting news on the page can go much quicker. When it came to Scruggs news most stories were only mild updates discussing the latest motion in U.S. v. Scruggs.  News only a select few in Mississippi really cared about.  Yet when new motions were filed, and evidence released I know Scruggs reporters were sifting through the new information as fast as possible trying to figure out the general gist of the new information. We would be looking for quotes involving sweet potatoes, bodies buried, and other such incriminating news. Then we have to write the story, get it edited, and wait for the on-line guy to post it on the website (or wait to till 5 a.m. for the paper to get delivered).

While many people read the blogs and go to them first for Scruggs news, most people in Oxford simply didn’t care that much to go find the news on-line. People love picking up the paper and seeing all the different news as part of their day starter. Folks drinking a cup of coffee and reading the Daily Mississippian is a common place on the Oxford Square And students grab the paper so they have something to read while the teacher sets up for class.

My audience was not the 500 lawyers out there following the cases every twist and turn, it was the students faculty, and alumni at Ole Miss, and that’s who I wrote for. The 500 lawyers closely following the case would be an added bonus to my readership.  

Knispel called me up and interviewed me at her house last Thursday as part of her story. I have gone back and forth on the question blog or not to blog. What I decided was limit what you say on other blogs, so not to come across as an un-fair reporter, if it is an aspect of the case I am only covering for my blog its ok to write but do not go beyond the hard facts, and always keep breaking news to myself untill it hit the newsstands (all advice Knispel told me months ago).

The wise reporter/teacher/author Curtis Wilkie once told me blogs are the equivalent to talk radio and I tend to agree, let the bloggers talk and the reporters report. 

 

 

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11 Responses to “Scruggs case and the debate reporters vs. bloggers”

  1. Sugar said

    No copy “editor’s,” you say?

  2. paulquinn said

    See what I mean.

    Look at this story in the Washington Post:

    Yanks Thump Sox
    Prime rate to remain stable, Bernanke says

    Sunday, June 22, 2008; Washington Post

    If you are like I, you are pretty sick of reading articles
    about how the financially-troubled newspaper industry is
    making desperation budget cutting moves: Downsizing its
    products, laying off staff, buying prostitutes for
    advertisers, and so forth. But believe me, you’d be even
    sicker of it if you were INSIDE a typical American newsroom
    these days, where it’s sometimes hard to hear over the 200
    decibel background drone of human whining.

    One frequent newsroom complaint is that they are cutting
    back drastically in the use of copyeditors. It’s true, but I
    for one am not complaining. I say good riddance.

    The era of the copy editor is gone. Copyeditors were once an
    important part of the journalism process, back when
    journalists weren’t as educated as they are now. Back then,
    your typical reporter was named ‘Scoop” and he was a
    semi-literate cigar-smoking, fannie-pinching drunk with bad
    teeth in a wrinkle by bribing sources, pistol-whipping
    people into talking, eavesdropping from inside closets, etc.
    A reporter was hired for cheek and muscle, not their writing
    skill, so you needed an extra layer of editing.

    Copy editors were fine-tuners, fixing basic but important
    things that a first line of editing might’nt catch: Typos,
    errors in facts, spelling, syntax, punctuation, clarity,
    word usage, style, parallelism, and not letting sentences
    run on. They would also bear principle responsibility for
    headlines, photo captions, story jump lines, as well as
    catching the occasional, inadvertent cultural insensitivity.
    Because the job requires patience, maturity, intelligence,
    attention to detail, and an extremely sedentary workday, fat
    old Jewish ladies have often made good copyeditors.

    But nowadays, things have changed. ÒScoopÓ is gone.
    Young reporters are all named ÒP. Laurence Butterfield
    Jr.Ó and they arrive at their first newspaper job
    fresh-faced and competent, straight from New Haven, Conn.,
    with their high-faluting Princeton educations. They don’t
    need copyeditors.

    This is a true fact: I’m writing this column the very week
    after dozens of copy editors left my newspaper through an
    early retirement buyout, and I have noticed no difference at
    all whatsoever in the quality, accuracy or readability of
    the product.

    The inessentialness of copy editors is underscored by the
    advent of sophisticated spellchecking systems which have
    introduced a hole new level of error-free proofreading. No
    longer can we say that the editor’s penis mightier than the
    sword. The sword’s main foe is a computer now, and the
    computer is up to to the task.

    But nowadays, things have changed. ÒScoopÓ is gone.
    Young reporters are all named ÒP. Laurence Butterfield
    Jr.Ó and they arrive at their first newspaper jobs
    fresh-faced and competent, straight from New Haven, Conn.,
    with their high-faluting Princeton educations. They don’t
    need copyeditors.

    Truth to tell, I feel badly for all copy editors whom, I’m
    afraid, will suddenly find themselves out of a job. Time has
    past them by, however, efeated the Red Sox 6-5 in extra
    innings and it doesn’t make sense for us to weep for
    copyeditors anymore than it makes sense for us to lament the
    replacement of bank tellers with automated ATM machines.

    So to all my former copyediting colleagues, I wish them a
    soft landing. Finally, I’d like to give particular shoutouts
    to my friends Pat Meyers and Bill O’Brien, two longtime
    copyeditors for the Washington Post who took the early
    retirement: We’ll miss ya, guys, even if we didn’t need you
    all that muck.

    How good a copy editor would you be? See how many of the 57
    errors of fact, grammar, syntax and style in this column you
    can catch, and then go to this story at
    washingtonpost.com/magazine and read the corrections.

    Gene Weingarten can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com.
    Chat with him online Tuesdays at noon at
    http://www.washingtonpost.com.

  3. wbnero said

    Paul, that Washington Post story is so old. Been around the block. And, yes, you desperately need a copy editor. I’ve never seen so many run-on sentences except in other pieces of your work. And, why is online hyphenated?

  4. wbnero said

    P.S.

    I meant to add, cool post. I totally agree. I’m so tired of these blogger assholes who think they’re so wonderful, especially that woman who tried to say you’re not good enough for her blog because you used the word “U” instead of “you.” Get a fucking life. If she’d known better, many professionals use slang like that in e-mails just to show how powerful they are – ie. not having to follow the grammar rules to show they don’t care as much.

    And blogging by journalists can be just as important as the real newspaper. Some people want all the info, others want very little, so the blog accomplishes depth and leaves the newspaper with the critical information.

    Journalists blogging is in no way a conflict of interest, unless we’re spilling our opinions all over the place. Which, I still don’t know is wrong. They tell me it is, but it feels like you should be able to have an opinion and report fairly. The public is just too stupid to go for that one. Yes, reporters have opinions. Get over it. Isn’t it better that our biases are out in the open rather than sheltered under the guise of “news”?

  5. bellesouth said

    I am very confused, Wbnero. That story is one day old.

  6. wbnero said

    Bellesouth:

    So, they updated it a little, but the joke’s all the same. They run a similar column at least once a year. Or some newspaper does. It’s been forwarded to me by journalism teachers before. Been trying to find it …

  7. wbnero said

    Wow. No wonder you stopped going to folo. Lotus is … A BITCH and one who is usually wrong but tries to push her silly points anyway.

  8. sop81_1 said

    Dang Willow tell us how you really feel. A Bay girl eh? Sweet.

    sop

  9. wbnero said

    Sop: Anyone who feels slighted by an e-mail containing the word “u” instead of “you” does not have my respect. She’s just so full of her own “correct” use of the language.

    Yep, Bay girl and one who got “slabbed” at that. Cedar Point.

  10. sop81_1 said

    I have several friends from that part of the Bay. It was a very hard hit area.

    I’ve thought about this topic a good bit over time. People that are motivated enough to post on a topic do so for a reason, often times economic sometimes personal. That does not mean a blogger can’t treat an issue fairly but the perspective certainly is different from a journalist that reports on a wide variety of subjects for a living. In other words, the motivation a journalist has is in writing the story rather than the story itself.

    I personally find it easier not to pretend I don’t have an interest in the subject matter that I write about. That doesn’t mean I don’t try to be fair but there is a difference between being fair and being objective.

    I tend to agree with the notion that blogs can be complimentary of traditional news gathering just as talk radio can compliment a radio news operation. But I also find some old line journalists resistant of the new technologies.

    I like your and Paul’s spunk and self confidence. I’ve enjoyed reading the posts on this topic both here and on Folo.

    sop

  11. nowdoucit said

    Well, here I am, late as usual – but I share Sop’s admiration for the “spunk and self-confidence” the two of you have shown and wanted to be on the record with my encouragement and support.

    Paul, I’m particularly pleased that now-u-do-c-it!

    Nowdy

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