Sunday, November 07, 2004

Context, Enemy of the Blogosphere?

Some comments from Ian Mayes, readers' editor for the Guardian, have made me think that one "danger" of blogs is the diffusion of errors owing to quoting, commenting or linking either out of context or with no reference to context. I'll leave a precis quote of Mr Mayes article as an explanation (Open Door, Saturday November 6 2004), but it is food for thought - a kind of web-based chinese whispers. The article discussed (in part) a piece in the Guardian TV supplement which had resulted in a furore (it was about Bush's election victory) and had subsequently been commented upon by a number of American bloggers. Mr Mayes put forward as a mitigating factor that the TV supplement has a different editorial tone and target audience to the rest of the newspaper (as does the G2 supplement) - while also pointing out that there was no defence for the comments:

"(...) These distinctions begin to disappear when the material is put up on the website. They disappear almost entirely when linked from the home page. And there is no context whatsoever when they are picked up by bloggers, individuals conducting their own websites.

Blogs, particularly in the United States, played a big part in the dissemination of the comments in the (...) case. They do not usually want to give or even hint at context. They are often slow to pick up retractions or apologies. This "web effect" is something to which the Guardian, and other multi-section newspapers, need to give more thought."
(my bold)
I think Mr Mayes is tarring all bloggers with a rather large and ill-targeted brush on this point, as many bloggers are careful to set context with links out to background material. However, it would be fair to say that many are not so careful (and not everyone - and I include myself as a member of this group - is scrupulously careful 100% of the time), and this is a signal point for many news services and publishers to consider.

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