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Poll: How's the mix of stories on OpEdNews? Is it over-edited? Under-edited?

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Poll: How's the mix of stories on OpEdNews? Is it over-edited? Under-edited?

President Obama recently expressed openness to a bailout of struggling news organizations. See this story. In so doing, Obama criticized blogs: "I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding,"

What an insult!

You have to wonder whether President Obama's dissatisfaction with blogs isn't at least partly due to the fact that both conservative and progressive blogs have been giving him a hard time recently. Obama doesn't like being criticized, and he may feel that business-oriented "professional" news organizations will be more likely to take it easy on him. The mainstream press typically defers to the powers-that-be.

But President Obama does have a legitimate concern that blogs in general don't fact check their content the way professional news organizations are supposed to.

For sure, conservative blogs fuel the flames of extremism by publishing all sorts of crap about alleged death panels, missing birth certificates, prison camps, and planned government-takeovers of industry.

It is true that anyone can submit an article to a blog like OpEdNews. And the editing is done by volunteer editors, most of whom lack professional training. So, there's less fact-checking than is possible with a professional news organization. Also, there are articles about fringe and alternative topics (such as conspiracy theories, New Age religion, and anti-vaccination crusades). So, it's definitely "buyer beware" on blogs. Don't believe everything you read.

But the same is true for mainstream news! The mainstream news media did a terrible job at fact-checking the propaganda disseminated by the Bush Administration during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Even now lots of news stories and points of view are just suppressed. Without blogs, it's questionable whether the single-payer movement in health care would have gotten as far as it has. (Actually, I sense that mainstream newspapers have improved in recent years. They seem to be doing a decent job of presenting various sides of the health care reform debate. And they are often critical of militarism and corruption. This is not to say that they're good enough.)

And even mainstream newspapers have a horoscope column!

Fact is: Many people don't trust the mainstream news and instead go online to blogs and other progressive sites for their news needs.

Besides, stories that are headlined on OpEdNews go through additional editing and vetting by senior editors, most of whom do have significant writing and editing experience. Most stories on fringe topics aren't front-paged.

Blogs like OpEdNews do publish some original material by big-name pundits and writers, and blogs do re-publish stories from other websites of various sorts -- both from other progressive sites and from the websites of mainstream publications (like the New York Times and The Nation).

Participants in rallies, marches, and demonstrations sometimes post first-person accounts to OpEdNews. The mainstream news media often don't even bother covering such events. Many bloggers are active activists and have intimate insight into the issues and people involved in the real stories.

So, blogs can get facts (the "News" part of OpEdNews) from inside scoops, as well as from other sources, including mainstream news.

As for opinions (the "Op" part of OpEdNews), any educated person can have an opinion! Often, it's the quirky, passionate, clever opinion pieces that are the most interesting on OpEdNews.

Given the low-budget, all-volunteer nature of blogs like OpEdNews, they perform a useful function.

Journalism needs a balance between "mainstream" and "alternative." If a newspaper is too concerned about appearing mainstream, it will merely repeat the conventional, government line and it will miss the up-and-coming paradigm shift. (Some of the so-called "conspiracy theories" may be onto something.) The civil rights movement never would have succeeded were it not for the revolution in public opinion that required rejection of the mainstream view. On the other hand, if a blog prints only conspiracy theories, they'll go off the deep end.

In other words, blogs push the envelope of the news, giving voice to alternative and down-trodden viewpoints. Blogs thereby serve a useful function. The trick is to find a good balance between mainstream and alternative. Too much editing is as bad as too little editing.

Which leads me to the poll question: How's the mix of stories on OpEdNews? Is it over-edited? Under-edited?

OpEdNews has a good mix now of alternative and mainstream points of view.
OpEdNews is too conservative: it needs to give voice to more alternative and fringe views.
OpEdNews publishes too much fringe stuff like New Age stories and conspiracy theories.
OpEdNews is a mixed bag and needs better editing and better tools to help readers choose.
Other (please explain in the comments).

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DFA organizer, Democratic Precinct Committee Officer, writer, and programmer. My op-ed pieces have appeared in the Seattle Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and elsewhere. See http://WALiberals.org and http://TruthSite.org for my writing, my (more...)

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