Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sweet and bitter all at once

The story by Richard Perez-Pena in the NY Times was downright overwhelming. The article, published today, was about Dan Mirvish and Eitan Gorlin, two men who created a hoax that reached the top tiers of our pathetic media system, apparently built on a house of cards.

Many of us read about Sarah Palin thinking Africa was a country rather than a continent. It was a cheap joke, an easy tidbit of information for all us liberals to smugly point to as evidence of her grand stupidity. Irony of ironies, it was reported by Carl Cameron, a Fox News Channel correspondent. Oops! Though it was actually MSNBC that came forward to retract the story.

The truth is that these two gues, Mirvish and Gorlin, went all Yes Men-style and made up a blogger named Martin Eisenstadt who was a McCain advisor and fellow at the Harding Institute for Freedom and Democracy. The man, like the institute, does not exist.

What made me think of my li'l blog here was this part of Perez-Pena's article:

They say the blame lies not with them but with shoddiness in the traditional news media and especially the blogosphere.

“With the 24-hour news cycle they rush into anything they can find,” said Mr. Mirvish, 40.

Mr. Gorlin, 39, argued that Eisenstadt was no more of a joke than half the bloggers or political commentators on the Internet or television.


This is always the hard part. Is it the people who did its fault or the people who let them do it? We all went through this with JT Leroy, not to mention bad tv movies about washed up celebrities, the ones who just wanted to keep the crowds happy.

These guys have to take some blame, yes, but the story provides a useful example of the dangers our fast-paced media must address. Everyone is in a rush to break the story and with the internet being what it is, you can get the story out there very quickly, right to readers.

And who are the readers? We were all gorging on media leading up to and just following the election, and many of us still are. I used to scan, but now I zip right through headlines, going forward and back with speed heretofore unreached. Why? Because I can. And because there seems to be endless news to read!

But like many publishing/bookish types, I appreciate the solace of a good book, with a finished ending just waiting for me to reach it. It's not changeable, it's not anxious, it's not going to be taken down or altered. And I'm not reading in a bubble - I often go online for supplementary material: to see the author's website, or see images as I did recently, as I wanted visuals to go with the story told in And the Band Played On. But this story is a good reminder to take what I read online with a grain of salt.

This also affirms my belief in the need for strong gatekeepers, and if those gatekeepers delay a process somewhat, it can be a valuable delay that strengthens the credibility of the material you're reading.

So just chill already.

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