It’s been a crazy past few days in the world of Georgy, with events that I am still processing. In the meantime, here is some commentary on items that crossed my desk (or my RSS) in the past couple of days.
- iPods can cause hearing damage! Now, as the commenters on this article argue, you can either say that this article gets written every 10 years for a different generation and is repetitive, or that it gets written every 10 years for a different generation and is a valuable reminder. But that doesn’t change the fact that the lead and headline are incorrect. iPods do not cause hearing damage; loud volume causes hearing damage. I know that iPods are becoming like Kleenex in that the brand is synonymous with the product (and, in some cases, just as disposable), but I don’t think we’re at that point of brand establishment yet with the iPod where an article like this doesn’t come off as confusing at best, misleading at worst. In addition, I’ll side with the commenters who feel that articles like this are not all that helpful.
- Maureen Dowd caught plagiarizing! So, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who has been the subject of some disdain from many corners over the years, was caught lifting a paragraph in her May 17 column nearly wholesale from a blog post by Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall. Her explanation came swiftly, but also clunkily: it was a thought expressed by a friend of hers, and she wanted to weave it into her column. As Dan Kennedy tweets, “If MoDo is telling the truth, that’s the strangest goddamn way to write a column I’ve ever heard of.” He also raises the good point that at this moment, a decentralized mob of bloggers is laying the hammer down on her body of work, scouring it for duped passages and stolen phrases.
The interesting thing here is the target. Josh Marshall is a blogger, yes, but he runs one of the most journalistically inclined blogs and news web sites out there. He’s also really, really popular, and TPM has not only become a mini media empire unto itself, but has some nice, MSM-approved hardware to show for that. Sure, there is some criticism of how he runs his operation, but the fact can’t be denied that in this age of evolving media, his model is something of a success story and is worthy of study, emulation and refinement.
That hardware? The George Polk Award? Was the first awarded to an online news organization. But in a sense, it was also awarded to his readership. Marshall and his staff of a half-dozen, give or take, are talented and hard-working, but it is really the loyal, tireless efforts of his readership — in scouring through public posted documents for incriminating bits, calling congressmen to get answers, sending in articesl from local coverage to fill in the blanks on a national story — that helped them win that award. It’s quite a machine, and it’s been put to good employ in a new model of journalism. The double-edged sword of this is that, with a prominent NY Times columnist accused of lifting a passage from Marshall and offering only a flimsy, if prompt, excuse as defense, that machine can now be put to the task of feeding Dowd’s entire career product through the wringer. Maybe they won’t find anything, maybe Dowd was lazy just this once and the rest of her columns, while of questionable quality, are original product. But maybe they will. If so, it will be undeniable that Dowd picked the wrong target.
Some people say, why freak out over a paragraph? I won’t belabor the point, but in summary: the only thing journalism — online or off — has holding it up is its integrity, and if so much as a crack in that wall is left unattended, the consequences could be significant. We must be vigilant. It doesn’t mean ruining someone’s career or publicly vilifying them, but it means holding them accountable.
- Donald Rumsfeld was fucking insane! Well, duh.