Citing sources

The Star Tribune’s Saturday story, Bloggers seeing red over Target’s little secret, has area bloggers seeing red today over the short shrift they got in uncovering the story of Target’s secret use of Facebook members to chat up the discounter’s virtues.

Ed Kohler, blogger of The Deets, called attention to it last Thursday, later a Star Tribune reporter called him about it, and on Saturday, Kohler got snubbed. The “bloggers” in the headline, never got mentioned in the story.

“What really happened here?” Kohler asked. “The headline of the article, ‘Bloggers seeing red over Target’s little secret,’ doesn’t make any sense when you don’t include bloggers in the article. A more accurate tile would be ‘Student We Mysteriously Found Out About in Georgia Goes Public about Target Rounders.’”

Maybe he’s got a point. Maybe he doesn’t. He merely called attention to another blogger’s work. But bloggers are a little sensitive since Bill Keller, executive editor of the New York Times, gave them the “what for” in a speech last week.

“Blogs can swarm around a subject and turn up fascinating tidbits. They allow you to follow a story as it unfolds. And, yes, there are bloggers who file first-hand reports of their experiences from distant places, including Iraq — and sometimes their work is enlightening or intriguing. But most of the blog world does not even attempt to report. It recycles. It riffs on the news. That’s not bad. It’s just not enough. Not nearly enough.”

Ouch.

Keller’s characterization provides — here it comes — “mainstream media” with the reason to ignore Kohler’s contribution to the Star Tribune’s story. But then he takes it away with his assertion of journalistic principles.

“We believe in transparency — that is, we aim to tell you how we know what we know, to attribute our information as much as possible to named sources, to rely on documentary evidence when we can.”

In the grand scheme of things, the Target-Strib-blogger flap is, perhaps, small potatoes. But maintaining reader trust — mainstream media’s biggest challenge — is all about details as small as revealing how you came to know what you know.