“It’s just a blogger, who cares…?”

Posted September 16th, 2010 in Uncategorized by Jeff Bentoff

So you think you can ignore blogs and that the only tweets that matter are those you hear when you’re watching birds. You think that only the mainstream media matters.

Even if nothing matters but traditional media – and that’s not the case! – new media can and does influence what you read in the paper or see on the TV news.

A couple of recent examples come courtesy of NPR’s great On The Media program.

Example one involves posts by New Orleans citizen journalist Karen Gadbois, on her blog, The Lens. Gadbois did her own investigation that showed the city was paying for rehab work after Hurricane Katrina that wasn’t being done. And then she blogged about it. The posts got attention of NOLA’s daily paper, The Times-Picayune, and those stories led to a federal investigation.

Get used to it. A good traditional reporter these days won’t ignore a blog posting that could serve as a lead. Hopefully mainstream reporters will check the facts on their own. But good reporters look everywhere for leads, and blog posts are becoming a rich source.

Speaking of checking the facts, Washington Post sportswriter Mike Wise got suspended for a month for posting a blatantly false report on Twitter. Why’d he do it? He said to show that other reporters don’t always check what they read on Twitter and that they just distribute (“re-tweet,” as the kids say) whatever they see.

Fabricating a story is a pretty dumb idea for a reporter, especially one who works for the Washington Post. The suspension was deserved. But he made his point about how tweets can be re-tweeted without verification. “Many news outlets, including The Miami Herald, The Baltimore Sun and the NBC sports blog ProFootballTalk, ran the Tweet,” reported On The Media.

Simple lesson here. Even if all you care about is mainstream media, pay constant attention to what’s being said about your organization or company in the blog-o-sphere, twitter-sphere, Facebook-o-sphere and the next (and there will be more) o-spheres to come along. All kinds of tools exist to help you monitor. And don’t be surprised when the posts from a blogger in his pajamas help a reporter win a Pulitzer.

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