Robert Novak Wasn’t Completely Off-Base About Bloggers

Yesterday, I ran an interview that I did with Robert Novak.

It was widely linked and, for the most part, was favorably received. However, there were more than a few bloggers complaining about these comments that Novak made about bloggers.

For example, here’s Rusty Shackleford from The Jawa Report

I really wish Hawkins had gone after Robert Novak for his dissing bloggers. Sure, there’s a lot of crap on the internet, but so what? There’s also a lot of crap in the New York Times, and presumably they do fact check.

Here’s what was said that prompted that comment,

John Hawkins: Speaking of people on the internet, journalism has obviously changed a lot over the years, in part because of blogging. What do you think of blogging in general and do you think it has had a positive or negative impact on the news business?

Robert Novak: I think it had a hugely negative impact for several reasons. A lot of the bloggers just put out whatever comes to their mind.

While I was promoting this book, I had an interview with NPR in New York City and they quoted something I had said to Keith Olbermann in an interview and I said, “I have never met Keith Olbermann in my life. I have never talked to him. If he asked me to go on his show, I would refuse.” And the man said, “Well, I read on the internet that you said this to him.”

There’s more nonsense on the internet than you can believe. They have lies about me that have no connection with what I really do or what I really am. That’s one aspect.

The other aspect is that good, honest reporters are told that it’s not enough to do their story for their station or their newspaper, that they have to get out and do a blog on it right away. It puts a high credence on speed, rather than care. A lot of things are said without due diligence being given to how accurate they are and how complete they are.”

Now, why didn’t I challenge this? Two reasons.

#1) I don’t believe you should ask a question that you don’t want the answer to. So, for me to ask what Novak thinks of bloggers and then get huffy when he gave me his honest opinion would have been out of line.

#2) I think that there was a lot of truth in what Novak said about the blogosphere. No, I don’t think that bloggers, “just put out whatever comes to their mind.”

However, many of the biggest blogs on the left side of the blogosphere are regularly and habitually inaccurate. It’s not the least bit unusual to see false or deliberately misleading accusations made about conservatives, with little or no attempt to back them up, and they are very seldom challenged by other liberal bloggers. You ever heard someone talk about a bungled story in the mainstream media and say they ran it because it was, “too good to check?” Well, that’s standard operating procedure when it comes to liberal bloggers (For just two of many examples, see here and here).

Now, the right side of the blogosphere is considerably more accurate than the left and as a general rule, the rightosphere does seem to be “self-correcting.” If something is factually wrong, it will typically be challenged by commenters and other bloggers.

That being said, the number of errors made on the right in search of the next big “Rathergate” scoop have escalated dramatically over the last year or so. There are a lot of people on the right who are more interested in “getting it first than getting it right,” because being first brings in a lot of traffic. I’m not picking on anybody in particular, but there are some people who end up having to make too many corrections and who end up admitting that their conjecture was off far too often. Again, the story does usually get corrected in the end, some big stories have been broken that featured some wrong turns along the way, and everybody makes mistakes — but a little more “care” and “diligence” on some people’s part would be very welcome.

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