Are blogs credible?

OK, so 60%+ of Americans don’t trust blogs. Do I need to do a Gomer Pyle imitation?

Blogs are media. People generally don’t trust the media either.Ten years ago, which was a time when the Web had about 12 pages on it and almost all of them were personal pages, I was in journalism school and if there was one point the introductory and history classes tried to hammer home, it was that freedom of the press is in danger. Today, a majority of students, when presented with the exact wording of the First Amendment, believe it goes too far.

There’s an old saying that freedom of the press is for those who own one. To a degree, that presented a large barrier of entry. One can safely assume that it will cost more than a million dollars to start a magazine, and that’s been true for a very long time. Newspaper startup costs will be much higher.

But somehow that hasn’t stopped quacks from getting into print. Some quacks are very wealthy. They can buy media outright, and less-wealthy quacks can just buy some space in a newspaper and pontificate all they want about whatever bothers them and act like a syndicated columnist–some even include their picture–and the only way you would know is by the word “ADVERTISEMENT” plastered across the top and the bottom of the editorial.

In contrast, some people will give you a blog for free, and that lowers the cost of entry even further. Now all it takes is some rudimentary computer skills and the willingness to sit down and write. And if people agree with you and link to you, you might even gain some prominence.

Does that make them credible? No. But do the words “of the [insert newspaper name here] staff” give you credibility? It shouldn’t. Journalism is not a licensed profession like engineering or law or medicine. If I can convince someone to hire me and pay me to write, I’m a journalist. The same goes for you. There are just two barriers of entry: People who can string words together intelligently are much more rare than they should be, and the pay stinks. If your goal is to keep a dry roof over your head and drive a car that isn’t falling apart, you’re better off persuing a career as a garbage man. But if you’re willing to live with pay that makes schoolteachers look like aristocrats, there isn’t much keeping you from being a journalist.

The low pay is one reason I’m suspicious of a lot of journalists. To put up with that lifestyle, you pretty much have to have a hidden agenda.

So do I trust blogs? Generally, no. But don’t feel bad. Generally speaking I’m suspicious of television news and newspapers and magazines and other online news services too.

Credibility is earned. I know some people trust me. I know some other people think I’m a quack who blogs because no sane person would pay me to write anything. And that’s fine–in some cases the feeling is more than mutual.

So what to do about those big, bad blogs that have no credibility? Censoring speech is always bad. The solution to speech that needs censorship is more speech. So the answer to bad blogs is more blogs. The best of the best will rise to the top, and quacks always find a way to eventually self destruct.

2 thoughts on “Are blogs credible?

  • April 19, 2005 at 11:17 pm
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    Over the years I have found Dave to be very credible. I don’t always agree with him but I trust and respect him.
    Jacques Pierre Cousteau Vermouth Bouillabaisse le Raunche de la Stenche and R. Collins Farquhar IV add the rich man’s viewpoint to this intellectually stimulating blog.
    There is something for everyone.

    "Don’t make enemies with people appointed for life by the President of the United States; and don’t make enemies of people who buy their ink by the gallon."
    Anonymous

  • April 20, 2005 at 7:51 am
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    This reminds me of two things: The recurring discussion of the reliability of Wikipedia, and click-through rates on web advertising. In both of these and in blogging, I think the web is making explicit something people used to ignore.

    "How do we know Wikipedia’s reliable? Anyone can edit an article." Well, how do you know Britannica’s reliable?

    "These ads are useless; nobody’s clicking on them." How many people were influenced by your TV ad campaign? How do you know?

    "Who’s this, some guy with a blog? What’s he know about the Environmental policy?" Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. How about [local reporter]? What’s he know?

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