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To cover the Kundra résumé issue or not to cover, that is the question

There has been a great deal of buzz about the new media, especially from this administration, which has included them in press conferences and treated them as equal members of the press corps.

The public, in general, has indicated that it does not value  the role journalists have traditionally played of verifying the accuracy of information in a story. (Hope I do not sound old and bitter.) We all remember Woodward and Bernstein needing two sources to run with a story. The new view is that the Web is self-policing and the wisdom of crowds will eventually win out.

As a result, we have a whole new class of journalists -- the bloggers, who do not subscribe to the need to verify before publishing, but who believe if they publish and it is incorrect, some one will correct it -- the Wikipedia approach to news.

Today, we had an interesting example of the issues that approach creates. John Dvorak, a former editor of PC Magazine and a well known blogger, posted an entry questioning the credentials and experience of Vivek Kundra, CIO of the White House.

Links to the blog post started flying around the industry. I got several emails with it. When our editorial folks tried to get a comment from the White House or OMB, they were told the administration talked with the bloggers to “set the record straight” in the blogosphere,  but they wanted  to talk FCW  out of doing the story because “you’re a real news organization.”

The OMB communications person said AP, the Washington Post and others had been calling, and that they agreed that there was no story.  Mission accomplished from a PR point of view.

FCW’s editor, David Rapp told the OMB spokesman that it was their quotes to the blog Gigaom that legitimized the story.

We checked it out. The allegations were false. But we can’t ignore something that is being circulated widely in the community. We had to write the story and explain the accusations and the facts.

I was fascinated in the different ways the White House treats the different media.

About the blog post, which is too long, poorly edited and has been corrected after everyone else checked the University of Maryland credentials, I thought it was interesting that Dvorak thinks working in industry provides experience and credentials, but working in state and local government does not.

From my experience, I can assure him, there is lots to learn in state government and you earn plenty of battle scars. What an interesting parochial point of view.

But he successfully got all of us to do the checking of the facts. So maybe it is a brave new world.

Posted by Anne Armstrong on Aug 14, 2009 at 10:12 AM

Reader Comments

Fri, Sep 4, 2009

This situation should be expected with the widespread use of tools like blogs and wikis. But the problem is not with the tools themselves but with the use of the tools. I just addressed this topic in the blog that I write (which must obviously be gospel “truth” right?).....
Is everyone with a blog and a following now a journalist?....
Now that everyone has a cell phone with a camera, is everyone now a photographer or videographer?
With the use of multiple personal computers and home networks, is everyone now a data center manager or a CIO? ......
CIOs, photographers, and journalists must adjust to new roles. In this example, journalists provide value to society and to the community by being the seekers of truth. These “neo-journalists” will aptly serve those institutions that have a reputation of high standards and integrity.

Thu, Aug 20, 2009 amy

Wash DC ...why does one need to "wonder" about his motives and if he is Republican or Democrat..... You are suggesting that it matters if someone asks questions, and is FED material, when the reality is..the emperor has no clothing? Any of us could have questioned the flaws in the resume...because, it was glaring. The fact that it is common place for people to pad their resumes, and inflate their stature is nothing new, but it is epidemic. With all the lies that we are fed the government, corporations, newspapers, is not a Republican/Democrat dividing line. You should encourage and applaud anyone asking questions....and jousting at windmills....because we are the victims of the deceit.

Mon, Aug 17, 2009 Editor

ANNE ARMSTRONG RESPONDS: The point is well taken that not all trade publications exercise the same degree of independence, but, for the record 1105 Government Information Group publications are constrained only by the bounds of good journalism and ethics. We subscribe to the standards of the American Society of Magazine Editors and have a room full of awards, including several for investigative reporting. We are not a conduit for controlled information from the government or from advertisers, and we believe that a better understanding of how government and industry partners do their jobs contributes to the common mission of both.

Sun, Aug 16, 2009 Mike Texas

The point that John was getting at is that some person throwing out nothing but "buzz words" does not make a person a CIO.

Sat, Aug 15, 2009 Gorgonzola

Readers of trade pubs need to be conscious of the degree of independence found therein. In many industries, the editorial policy of trade pubs does not tolerate much criticism of major stakeholders. It is just good business. And the pubs sponsors all sorts of mingling, intimate activities in order to get close to the people it covers. As a result, readers learn not to depend on trade pubs for real news or investigatory journalism. But they do serve a valuable role as the major channel of controlled information that, in this case, the government and companies want to be disseminated. It is very convenient and efficient in that respect.

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