A mighty silly article in the Washington Post breathlessly reports that so-called “bloggers” will be at the conventions this summer:
But neither party has ever allowed bloggers to cover one of its presidential conventions firsthand — and the decision seems to promise a clash of two very different cultures. The conventions have become carefully staged productions intended, primarily, to reintroduce the parties’ nominees to the general public. Independent blogs — especially those focusing on politics — are far more freewheeling, their authors mixing fact with opinion and under no obligation to be either fair or accurate.
For the first time ever! Imagine that. I wonder if the bloggers were kept out of the 2000 convention because they didn’t, you know, exist at the time. That’s probably an angle worth exploring. More amusing, however, is the implication that regular, less feewheeling reporters are just hankering for the opportunity to be unfair and inaccurate, held back only by an obligation to behave otherwise.
I actually think it’s a bit of a revealing slip. Obviously, no one means to write unfair and inaccurate copy, for newspapers for the web, or otherwise. What happens, though, is that real reporters — those covering domestic politics at least, things seem different for foreign correspondents — aren’t allowed to write up honest assessments of what they think is happening. Instead, they have an obligation to be “fair and accurate,” meaning construct a story around a balanced number of direct quotations from two sides of a dispute. The result is copy that’s extremely accurate — it doesn’t assert anything other than that other people have asserted X and Y — in a tendentious sense, and “fair” in the sense of giving both sides equal opportunity to spin. But is it informative? Entertaining? Actually accurate?