The medium is the mess-up | Bleader

The medium is the mess-up


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A reporter for an online news site got a fact wrong because he or she didn't vet the accuracy of a quote. The bad fact is still online and hasn't been corrected. Somehow, according to someone in the Trib's Washington bureau, this is the Internet's fault.

There's a story pinging around the Internet about how Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) paid a visit to Libya in 1984 and met with Louis Farrakhan, the Chicago-based Nation of Islam leader whose anti-Semitic remarks have long inflamed relations between blacks and Jews.

I read this and wondered why, despite all the time I spend on political blogs, I'd heard neither hide nor hair of this particular story.

The posting has remained on since then, and the reporter who wrote the story said he wasn't aware of the error until Monday. Thus far, it appears that only one Weblog has linked to the story, and that page had reported only a few dozen readers by Monday afternoon. It wasn't clear Monday how would deal with the error.

I see. The story was news to me because it was reported on an inconsequential web site that nobody reads. Does this constitute "pinging around the Internet"? Never mind, here's my real beef:

But Obama and other presidential candidates have seen different Internet legends start small and then quickly take off in recent months, as the Web plays an increasingly influential role in the spread of information about office seekers.

Obama has battled various rumors about his childhood overseas, including one that he attended a radical Islamic school while living in Indonesia as a youth. Obama has denied those stories, and former educators at the schools have debunked them in interviews with the Tribune and other news organizations.

That wasn't the Internet, that was FOX $&!#@!!! NEWS.* Note that when that particular story took off, the Trib wasn't writing about how "lunatic Republican media harpies play an increasingly influential role in the spread of information about office seekers."

I suspect the real problem here is just trying to write a think piece without stopping to think, but when someone unfairly maligns the Internet, I feel like I have to step in.

* The rumor was first "reported" by Insight magazine, an online-only rag that's part of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's media empire (which includes the conservative Washington Times). From there it was mangled by Fox's morning clusterfuck "Fox & Friends," and was later reported in its original form by the exceedingly creepy host John Gibson. In other words, it wasn't an "Internet legend" at all but fake, ideologically motivated reporting from a magazine that happens to be online-only but is part of an ostensibly legitimate if in reality totally lunatic media conglomerate.

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