Data Mining


Glenn Reynolds on the misreported miners story:

If bloggers had made these kinds of mistakes, Big-Media folks would be pointing them out as evidence that the blogosphere can't be trusted. But where were all those editors, filters, and fact-checkers?

I take his point, but it's worth noting that bloggers did make "these kinds of mistakes." Lots of blogs repeated the false report that 12 miners survived the disaster, just like CNN and The New York Times did—which is exactly what you should expect, since they're all part of the same media ecosystem. Do a Technorati search for "miners are alive," then scroll past the angrier, more recent posts; you'll find a ton of happy announcements. Granted, most of them are from LiveJournals—I think this quickly corrected comment sums things up pretty well—but LJs are blogs too; and it isn't as though there weren't any widely-trafficked sites that made the same mistake.

I'm not saying this to put down the bloggers. I'm saying it because I don't think this story fits the hoary old new media vs. the MSM storyline beloved by blog-bashers and blog-boosters alike. Photo Dude makes the more important point: "The first reports are almost always inaccurate, if not flat out wrong." That's true on the Web as well as in the rest of the press:

So many seem to think blogging is about immediacy. Taken to extreme, we have the typing contest known as "live blogging," where someone taps out each merry thought that passes through their skull while they watch some event. Imagine someone going to a movie and describing each detail over the cell phone to someone else, convert it to text, and you've got "live blogging." How enlightening.

Many bloggers feel like they've got to post about a news event within ten minutes of it happening. They end up publishing half-baked thoughts about partially erroneous first reports, to which they later have to add…"Update: never mind."

I can already get that from the media, thank you very much.

There's an important place for immediate reports, of course. But experienced news consumers know to take them with even more salt than usual. That's just as true for online diarists as it is for TV networks.