Greetings from Mesh! Or, "mesh" as the e.e. cummings interweb types like to call it. I am at the Mesh conference in Toronto, and it is awesome (you hear that, Jian Ghomeshi? Awesome!), with amazing attendees like game-changing 'Hillary 1984' videographer Phil de Vellis, wealth-eschewing Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster, web philanthropy leaders Austin Hill and Tom Williams, hotshot National Post columnist (and super nice guy) Andrew Coyne, the amazingly articulate Warner Records exec Ethan Kaplan, Globe & Mail columnist and mesh co-founder Mathew Ingram, infamous Wikipedia writer Simon Pulsifer Wired's Jeff Howe, and TechCrunch macher Michael Arrington, here shown showing the speaker gifts, mesh boxers — in fun Canadian colours! See Arrington riffing on his shorts here courtesy of video by the hilarious Loren Feldman; more on the event, including photos, vid and us trying to corner Arrington on how national security events impact tech markets while he was on at least his fourth drink. Also, the man does not like standing in line for the bathroom.
So that's coming tomorrow. But first, Meshfight! With such smart and thoughtful people having nuanced and interesting discussions, I am amazed at how a veteran tech reporter for a publication as good as the Globe & Mail could come away from it with such a completely oversimplified, agenda-driven, misrepresentative, grossly irresponsible and patently wrong assessment. Today, on his tech blog "Cyberia," Jack Kapica completely misrepresented my remarks and those of my colleagues, Loren Feldman and Cynthia Brumfield on the panel discussing "Barbarians At The Gate: Should Old Media Be Afraid of New Media?" It was brought to my attention this morning by the all-seeing Jay Rosen (who, by the way, is the ghost haunting Mesh, name dropped right and left and inspiring at least one panel). Jay wondered if I had said that "bloggers can, in fact, easily replace news organizations, ousting professional news reporters with freelance amateurs and opinion-mongers"; I said, "Er, no." For the rec, this is what I said:
- I worry about layoffs of older staff members of newspapers because we are losing our institutional memory
- I would rather be right than first, and in the past have held back on publishing scoops I've gotten because I couldn't confirm them
- an online news organization's credibility is its own responsibility, and it is up to that organization to allocate resources to fact-checking and copy-editing, and, concomitantly, it is up to readers whether or not to keep coming back
- smart news organizations see the internet as an opportunity to change and adapt, rather than as a threat. I think I used the word "adapt" about a zillion times.
Here's the irony: Thornley and Christensen are bloggers, posting their quick-blogged version of the event to the internet all new media-like. Kapica is the wise elder, the grizzled 15-year veteran of the Globe's tech pages, a name I can recall reading long before being a blogger was a gleam in my teen-aged eye. So here is an old media dude lambasting new media types for daring to say that unreliable new media is equipped to supplant trustworthy old media — a statement that itself is completely unreliable, untrue, and totally contradicted by the written (and live-blogged) record — not to mention the video recording that Loren Feldman made.
A journalist friend of mine remarked to me that he found it odd that I'd request a correction, since that was such an old-school thing to do, and since this was online. But why not? Kapica wrote something, lazily and incorrectly, and put it out there under the trusted Globe & Mail brand. Why shouldn't that be corrected? This, to me, underscores a truth which people on both sides of the spectrum incredibly still fail to grasp: Platform is just platform, medium is just medium. Whether you blog it or print it or etch it in stone, if you're putting it out there then it better be right. And if it's wrong, then you'd better correct it, and eat a little crow while you're at it. Am I perfect? Hell, no. Have I made mistakes on ETP? Hell, yes — each of them corrected and flagged and apologized for. That's because accuracy and integrity matters, has to matter, whether you're an old-world journo or the brave new world of blogging. The platforms may change and the paradigms may shift, but if we value information and accuracy and transparency and accountability, then that's one thing that had better stay the same.
My comment on Kapica's article, not posted for at least two hours after it had been submitted:
I am appalled at Jack Kapica's COMPLETELY misrepresentative, agenda-driven, selective, and flat-out wrong rendering of our panel at Mesh. Did Kapica even take notes? Use a tape-recorder? Impossible - almost everything he writes is completely wrong. Among the things I said at the panel were as follows:
--I worry about layoffs of older staff members of newspapers because we are losing our institutional memory--I would rather be right than first, and often hold back on publishing scoops I get because I can't confirm them--an online news organization's credibility is its own responsibility, and it is up to that organization to fact-check and be right, and if it is not reliable than readers will not stick around--smart news organizations see the internet as an opportunity to change and adapt, rather than as a threat. I think I used the word "adapt" about a zillion times.
Correction: The webcam-on-the-head example was something Loren Feldman - NOT Cynthia Brumfield - mentioned. That was raised in discussion of user-generated content on the site Justin.TV, featuring the eponymous Justin's "Lifecast" wherein he has been known to wear a webcam on his head during dates. The aging-cheese website was another example of user-generated content. These examples were not mentioned in the context of anything to do with newsgathering or reporting, but rather regarding the levelling of the playing field for online content as barriers to entry fall. Here the point I continued to drive home was that quality would be the great determinant. We said on more than one occassion "the cream - or cheese - rises."
Finally, my status as an employee of Arianna Huffington was not raised even once, nor was the weird and totally not-true "fact" Kapica asserts above.
Alas, I am out of space, so I cannot post the transcript of the event - which Loren Feldman taped. I will, however, be passing it on to the editor of the Globe and Mail in my request for a correction, and apology.