At last week’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference I was on a blogger panel where some members of the audience brought up ye olde “bloggers aren’t as good as ‘real journalists’ because bloggers don’t get it right” argument. The audience cheered when the host made the point that magazine journalists go slower to “get it right.” I played the part of the blogger and took the point on the chin, despite also now writing for a magazine and having to work with the old-school editing system of fact-checkers and pre-publication editing.
I tried to make the point that blogs self correct very quickly (usually within hours) because if I get it wrong the people who actually know the truth will jump on me fast and furiously and that blogs arrive at the truth faster BECAUSE of the participation of everyone involved.
This is something that RARELY happens in the paper press. Or, if it does, thanks to letters to the editors, it happens very slowly, so readers never really see that feedback until weeks or months later. And even when it does happen you only see a sample of the feedback, never the whole feedback. In every case gatekeepers are in charge of what the reader sees (try to get something published in a newspaper sometime, even if you have a legitimate case it’s pretty difficult).
Dave Winer told me often that he loves blogging because it lets him tell his story. His complete, unedited, unchanged, unfiltered story. He’d tell me example after example of getting interviewed by journalists who didn’t understand the technology he was building, so they’d misrepresent it due to either misunderstanding what he was saying, or, even worse, some sort of bias toward him or his technology. Many other people have told me the same thing.
Anyway, at the Fortune thing I tried to get across that I liked having my readers as fact checkers a lot more than the magazine style of working to get it right before publishing. Every column I publish in Fast Company magazine gets edited and fact checked by someone else. That’s cool and usually keeps me from looking like an idiot in print. But I much prefer the blog because I think the comments are actually part of the article.
No better way to demonstrate that as with yesterday’s post about Silicon Valley’s VC Disease.
David Hornik, the VC I was talking about, gave a very long reply to my post yesterday. He refuted some things, clarified other things, and had fun with other things. Among the points that Hornik made is that August Capital was one of the few original investors in Seagate. I should have looked that up before publishing. A fact-checker at the magazine probably would have caught it and kept me from looking stupid. But, this let David get a great point across: that he was positioned unfairly by me and let him clarify his remarks on Friday. In the old world a journalist would have been able to throw David under the bus and David wouldn’t have been able to do much about it except write a letter to the editor.
In the old world of publishing you never would have seen his reply and if, for some reason, it would have run, it would have been a month later separate from the article, not combined with the article within a few hours of its publishing, like Hornik’s comment was here.
Journalists who fight this system (and readers who don’t check out the comments) are missing the point. This is a participatory media, not a one-way one, and, while it has a different editing system (the editing is done post publishing, not pre publishing) it’s pretty clear to me that this system arrives at the truth a lot faster than anything on paper does.
But, you gotta read and participate in those comments! Lots of old-schoolers don’t like that dirty work.
Oh, and David also joined in over on the FriendFeed thread.
Thank you David for providing evidence that blogs can make everyone, including the author, smarter.