21 December, 2006

Stupid statement from Robert Fisk

This was a week or so back in Gulf News, but I only just spotted it:

Has the proliferation of the alternative media – particularly online – helped present truer pictures?

Blogs are not a useful alternative press. I don't use the internet much, as I don't have time and there's no system of accountability. I know many journalists and writers now read everything online and then use it to write pieces, but that's just mirror journalism.
Well Robert, if you "don't use the internet much", how in God's name are you placed to comment on whether blogs are a useful alternative press or not? Given the immense censorship in certain countries, it is only via the internet - and these days, usually in the form of blogging - that citizen journalists and actual journalists are able to get stories out. Making a broad and dismissive statement from a platform of self-confessed ignorance is hardly the behaviour of someone worth heeding, is it?


Doubleletter said...

He's right about there being no system of accountability in the blogging world.

While I don't think blogs can replace _news_papers, they can, and have, replaced editorials, columnists, and 'letters to the editor'.

Mme Cyn said...

The problem with blogs is the same as the problem with the rest of the Internet: it is neither vetted nor edited. When I teach students to do research, they have certain checks as to whether or not they can depend on the 'facts' they read on the Net. It isn't that there is no truth on the internet (or good journalism in blogs!--there's loads of gold among the dross --), it's just that you have to verify what you read before accepting it as fact.

You make a very valid point, Secret -- since the press is gagged here, sometimes you need to rely on blogs to know what's going on. But much of what is put forth in blogs can still be cross- checked and verified, which a good reporter should be able to do, even in this environment.

Anonymous said...

I think blogs have their place - but you have to do a lot of digging to find anything worth using.

For example - the proliferation of blogs during and after the lebanon war. Most of them were written by christian lebanese and were in no way reflective of what was happening there.

As the first poster said - blogs are more about 'opinion pieces' than news.

Lirun said...

i think accountability is through readership.. people tend to consolidate blog info with external sources.. if things are consistently ridiculous they tune out..

nzm said...

I have a lot of respect for Robert Fisk. Like John Pilger, he's from the old school of investigative journalism where he gets out into the real world and talks to people who are being affected by what's happening in order to write his pieces.

I don't necessarily agree with everything that he writes, but at least his writings are intelligent, written from first-hand information and make me want to learn more.

Let's dissect what he's saying in the piece quoted by Secret Dubai.

Blogs are not a useful alternative press.
While I agree that blogs have opened up an avenue for expression in some areas where censorship is present, I also agree with that statement. Personal blogs are just that - personal accounts of situations from one person's viewpoint. These accounts are neither balanced nor impartial as good investigative journalism should be.

I don't use the internet much, as I don't have time and there's no system of accountability.
Good for him! I wish that I didn't have to use the internet so much either, but with the standard of drivel that's written in what passes for press/media coverage these days, I use the internet to dig deeper into subjects that are of interest to me. One site I visit is Information Clearing House. There I find a lot of articles written by journalists who are prepared to think, and often there are different viewpoints on the same topic which I like to read, as it gives me a more balanced viewpoint.

As for the no accountability, he's right. What determines that people only place the truth on the internet? Tragically, I have heard (mostly older) people say that what they're saying "must be true, because they read it on the internet."

I know many journalists and writers now read everything online and then use it to write pieces, but that's just mirror journalism.
Yes - we've had instances of UAE Community members' blog posts being pilfered by the press and written up as articles in local papers and beyond. Of course this happens.

You really have to read the whole Gulf News article (linked by Secret Dubai in the post) to get a feel for what Fisk is saying here.

He's being very scathing of people who call themselves journalists, and then do nothing but file TV reports from hotel roofs and base their writings on what they read online.

He's lamenting the lack of true journalism where reporters and writers would take the time to find out things for themselves by exposing themselves to the reality, and often the dangers, of being in the frontline in order to get a more factual story written from personal experience, and not from hearsay or someone else's findings.

A Blessing in Tragedy said...

Doubleletter said...

He's right about there being no system of accountability in the blogging world.

This blog sort of proves him right, huh?

i, Bobo said...

Although I often find Fisk's pandering to this region silly and obsequious (along with Linda Heard) -- he's got a point here: blogging is most certainly not journalism. There's more accountability in professional journalism as there are more safeguards to prevent inaccuracies and misuse of the medium.

I see blogging as more of an opportunity for the individual to provide editorial commentary. The internet has allowed us all the freedom to become our own versions of Safire, Dowd, or Friedman (insert your own here -- I just happen to like the folks at the NYT).

BuJ said...

Maybe the comments were taken out of context? Can he really be that stupid?

It's like saying Lamb Stew tastes horrible when you've never tasted lamb in your life.

I heard Roberto is in UAE.

Canuck said...


Robert Fisk gave a lecture at the University of Toronto on 18-Dec-06 which I attended......pretty interesting stuff. I am not sure if he caught a flight straight after the lecture to go to Dubai.

bklyn_in_dubai said...

While blogs are not vetted or edited and often slanted, so it seems that many newspapers and other news sources operate in the same way. While we expect any Murdoch-owned medium to be full of right-wing buffoonery, we do not expect it of staid outlets like the NYTimes or other such "proper", "objective" newspapers. But they have their problems of poor editing, falsification, and ideological slants. But neither baby should be thrown out with the bathwater. Newspapers are still useful, even Gulf News and, yes, KT -- at the very least we can read between the lines. Similarly, blogs tell us a lot, fact or opinion. And in any case, the more varied sources we use, the fuller the picture.

Dubai Media Observer said...

I don't agree about the accountability issue. There is accountability in blogging. As a matter of fact, I think peer checks (executed via comments) is far more credible than the fact that it is printed on paper. How accountable are the tabloids, which are printed?

Just because there is a lot of crap out there on the Internet doesn't mean that it is not checked. The press has just as much (percentage wise) crap that goes out with virtually no accountability.

secretdubai said...

Anyone who reads blogs is well aware that not every blogger is aiming for a Pulitzer prize for journalism. But to be so dismissive of a growing medium that is used by actual journalists is just ridiculous - particularly when one admits to not using the internet much.

Radio did not replace newspapers, nor did television replace radio, nor did the internet replace television, radio or newspapers. But it is here to stay, and it is credible medium. I trust many bloggers here far more than I trust Fox News, or the Daily Mail.

BuJ said...

canuck, thanks for that!

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