Friday, February 22, 2008

What It Isn't

Here's a pretty common type of confusion about the media. You'll find this sort of thing on all sides of the blog world.

Major newswire service writes a story, which seems to indicate X is going to happen. But as the situation unfolds, X does not in fact happen. Y happens. Bloggers who remember the original story go back to link to it with an "aha/accusation of bias," but find the original story is no more and has been replaced by a story describing Y happening, often with the same byline as the old X story and whole chunks of identical background text.

This is not a conspiracy. This is the way journalism operates. It is intent on presenting the most up-to-date versions of a story, and if earlier versions of the stories are outdated or wrong, it no longer keeps them before the public. In many cases they are wrong because the journalists unconsciously let their biases shade their reporting. But that's not why you can't find the old version of the story anymore.

Big stories are constantly updated through the day. AP might move 6 or 8 write-throughs of its AM-IRAQ story over a 12-hour cycle; it might involve just minor changes, or it might be a complete re-write with a new top. Depends on the amount of news coming out of there.

Journalism lives in the eternal present tense. It doesn't think of itself as an accessory to blogging, even if some bloggers see it that way. It burns its dead and moves on, hour by hour.