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.”


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.

  • Bob:

    Is maintaining the trust of the readership truly MSM’s biggest challenge? It’s certainly up there but has maintaining cash flow eclipsed it?

    For what it’s worth, most of my remaining trust in the MSM is with MPR: in fact, I’m not even sure I view it as mainstream given what the majority of news media is putting out these days. (cable news specifically comes to mind).

    Oh, and thank you for actually linking to Siman’s blog. It’s the first linkback from a “MSM” source that I’ve seen.

  • Bob Collins

    That’s a good question, Noah. I stuck it there mostly because of Keller’s characterizations. It gets to the heart of what he says is the competitive advantage of MSM — its alleged “believability”… trust… what have you.

    True, of course, the Internet, Facebook (hey, how many stories have you seen lately in the paper based on Facebook?), blogs etc., are a business challenge… and certainly not insignificant ones as we’ve come to know so well. For the most part — with exceptions — maintaining cash flows and establishing trust are the priorities of different cubicles. Of course, there’s an argument to be had, I suppose, on what begats what.

    Trust is a funny thing. It gets to reputation. In many cases, reputation is all that gets you through the tough times, even when it’s undeserved.

    I appreciate you stopping by.

  • C’mon Bob, really?

    If anyone at MPR would’ve gotten this small story out there and it ended up on the STrib without mentioning MPR, it would’ve been a problem.

    But since its someone without an old Minnesota media institution behind him, the new journalistic sophism blowns it off as Ed ‘may not even have a point’ or as ‘a learning experience’ (as Crosby characterized it).

    And, btw, Jarvis at Buzzmachine isn’t sensitive from being taken to task, quite the opposite. He’s verbally throwing up his hands because the MSM keeps — for example, in a post you can read here — miscasting the role and reach of bloggers.

  • I recycled a story with citation. The starTribune recycled the story without citation.

    My frustration comes from holding mainstream media to blogging standards. 🙂

  • Bloggers use the [via] tag to give credit, to tip the hat. It’s a way to acknowledge that we didn’t dig this up ourselves, and we found it from someone.

    Mainstream media pretends that we discover it all. “We’ve learned” is one of the most incorrectly used phrases in TV. Often it’s learned from the AP or the newspaper.

    Either way, I think it’d be useful to develop some way to tip the hat to a source. Certainly the Strib could have put a line at the end of the story, a la “The Associated Press contributed to this story.”

  • dave

    Sloppy editiing by the Star Tribune? I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

    Wait, what’s the word that means the opposite of shocked?

    Meanwhile, while the New York Times guy’s assessment of bloggers and news may be correct, no one from the New York Times has the right to criticize anyone else for lazy journalism or recycling stories. From 2002 on the New York Times’ “reporting” has consisted mainly of regurgitating White House press releases as gospel truth.

  • Bob Collins

    A follow-up.

    Jeff Jarvis and Kellher (the Times guy) have been mixing it up since I made this post on Monday.

    Find it here.

    Personally, I really hate — hate — the reference to “professional’ and “amateur” when it comes to journalists and journalism. It’s storytelling. But even more than that is the ability to empathize, it’s the possession of curiosity. It’s putting words together. Maybe a high school senior, with more experience, writes a better paragraph than, say, a 9th-grader. Does that make one a professional and one an amateur.

    Journalists, today, have a nasty habit of not being able to tell a story without having a ‘good guy” and a “bad guy.”

    I think Keller fell into that trap. Some bloggers do, too.

    Of all the problems facing the world, being too informed isn’t one of them. It’s a big pie. There’s room for everybody.

  • Bob Collins

    //But since its someone without an old Minnesota media institution behind him, the new journalistic sophism blowns it off as Ed ‘may not even have a point’ or as ‘a learning experience’ (as Crosby characterized it).

    Well, if we’re going to talk accuracy and attribution, let’s be clear that I said Ed MAY have a point, or he MAY not have a point.

    Clearly, there’s a predisposition in today’s climate to deal in black-and-white before considering various views.

    For example, *if* I were to actually say Ed doesn’t have a point, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have one.

    Frankly, when it comes to this sort of practice, the Star Tribune is more often a victim than a perpetrator in the mainstream media world. There is, as I’m sure most have noticed, a relationship in what the Strib reports, and what everyone else in MSM reports…. usually without a h/t.