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Wikitorials
June 14, 2005 8:19 AM   Subscribe

The rareified land of op-ed is the latest section of the big-city daily to see upheaval. A few weeks back, outgoing NYT ombudsman Dan Okrent and professorial columnist Paul Krugman waged an all-out snarkfest over the accuracy of Krugman's statistical references. As Okrent intimates, should op-ed columnists be subject to the same fact-checking standards as reporters? And how much should the views of one columnist be taken to represent the views of the paper? The Los Angeles Times is shaking up its model by allowing editorial board members to openly dissent from op-ed columns, effectively turning philosophical pronouncements into policy debates. But the most interesting thing to come out of the redesign, to be launched next week, is wikitorials, the op-ed that Anyone Can Edit. Disaster in the making, or the new face of journalistic opinion?
posted by Saucy Intruder (40 comments total)

 
they can shove a wikitorial up thier gaping blogosphere, for all i care.
posted by quonsar at 8:34 AM on June 14, 2005


wiki.....torial? this appears to be disaster in the making.

I can just see a MeFi link to some article pointing out a writer's opinion, and moments later the opinion is changed 200 separate times. Lord forbid a link lands on /.
posted by mystyk at 8:38 AM on June 14, 2005


I give you a sneak preview of the wikitorial:

You're wrong!

^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H

No, you're wrong!

Also, what quonsar said.
posted by keswick at 8:39 AM on June 14, 2005


I eagerly await keen and insightful GNAA wikitorials on race and gender issues.
posted by brownpau at 8:42 AM on June 14, 2005


Does wikitorials necessarily = unmoderated forums? If so, I give them about 6 months.
posted by Cassford at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2005


..and grits. I want to know where they stand vis-à-vis grits and Natalie Portman.
posted by keswick at 8:49 AM on June 14, 2005


should op-ed columnists be subject to the same fact-checking standards as reporters?

Op-ed columnists should be held to a higher standard because they are not competing to scoop fast-breaking news and thus should have more time to check their facts.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:51 AM on June 14, 2005


From POE News today: O'Reilly a Journalist, Woodward Not
posted by grimcity at 8:56 AM on June 14, 2005


that POE article is mucho lame. Are we surprised that more people know who Bill O'Reilly is than Bob Woodward? Limbaugh than George Will? If you look at the way the poll was conducted, that's basically what was being asked. Ask those same people whether Grover Cleveland, Chester A. Arthur, and Millard Filmore were U.S. Presidents.

People are dumb. That's not news.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:18 AM on June 14, 2005


I give wikitorials 5 minutes before goatse appears.
posted by iamck at 9:18 AM on June 14, 2005


Soon enough, hackers will find a way to automate bots that continually bombard Wikitorials with spam, goatse, etc. You have to keep the rabble in check somehow.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:23 AM on June 14, 2005


This is a horrible idea.

This is good.
posted by dial-tone at 9:44 AM on June 14, 2005


This is a horrible idea.

This is good.
posted by dial-tone at 12:44 PM EST on June 14 [!]


dial-tone is teh lame! p0wn3d! lolkthxbye!
posted by mkultra at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2005


mcstayinskool, I'm not surprised that more people know who Bill is (over Bob)... but I am concerned that people think Bill's a journalist.
posted by grimcity at 10:07 AM on June 14, 2005


Wikitorials...reader participation...hmmm, this gives me an idea. Why don't they include a section near the editorials and columnists and call it "Letters to the Editor" and they could include emailed letters along with the more traditional "letter" letters. Just thinking out loud here.
posted by kozad at 10:13 AM on June 14, 2005


Rush Limbaugh: "I am America's anchorman, doing news play-by-play 15 hours a week for nearly 17 years now, and this is just more evidence that the old media's monopoly-like dominance is finished," the conservative talk show host said.

Um, when did a hugely syndicated personality on one of the most stodgy media formats become "new media?"
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:14 AM on June 14, 2005


Um, when did a hugely syndicated personality on one of the most stodgy media formats become "new media?"

Rush was misapprehended. He is gnu-media, the opinion setter of large grass eaters.
posted by beelzbubba at 10:23 AM on June 14, 2005


kirkjobsluder: it reminds me of james lileks cappin' on newspapers and blogs. mmm, hand that feeds you.
posted by keswick at 10:25 AM on June 14, 2005


Krugman could easily survive fact checking, Okrent, not so much.

And imagine Friedman run through fact checking!

I'm beginning to like the idea of Op-Ed fact checking, sounds like a great idea.

Wiki should never have it's good name tarnished by being so misused.
posted by nofundy at 10:28 AM on June 14, 2005


Limbaugh than George Will?

Windbag better-known than sophist. Film at eleven.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:40 AM on June 14, 2005


Sure, let's make it more like talk radio - less nuance, more hyperbole. Just great.
posted by caddis at 10:49 AM on June 14, 2005


From POE News today: O'Reilly a Journalist, Woodward Not
posted by grimcity at 11:56 AM EST on June 14


You get the most misleading headline award grimcity.
posted by caddis at 10:51 AM on June 14, 2005


Okrent can blow me.

As an editor, if he had problems with either the quality or accuracy of anyone's work, then he should have discussed it with them in PRIVATE, and not in the press as a parting shot.

Second, how much criticism did Okrent make about the Times abysmal coverage of the lead up to the war? None, so far as I can recall, or weak at best ('We should have done better. Sorry'). Or any other criticism of the paper for that matter.

Third, yeah, just because it's on the op ed page doesn't mean it can be fact free; or if it is fact free, it taints its validity and credibility (e.g. someone like Krugman is more factually accurate than David Duke, ergo, he carries more water, forensically speaking).

Fourth, Libaugh, O'Reilly et al are a bunch of hacks. Ego bloated entertainers at best, utter shills at worst. If someone wants to see them as "news" and use them for "information" to build a world view, then you're being willfully stupid, and I've got very little patience for low-grade morons like that.

The only real problem is when enough willfully stupid people feel compelled to vote.
posted by Relay at 10:52 AM on June 14, 2005


"A few weeks back, outgoing NYT ombudsman Dan Okrent and professorial columnist Paul Krugman waged an all-out snarkfest over the accuracy of Krugman's statistical references."

Okrent claimed Krugman had printed fudged stats in his op ed column but failed to provide any examples or counter facts. krugman called him out for being a being a no talent hack and asked okrent to produce evidence. Okrent couldn't and went back to writing books about baseball. (dailyhowler has been following the story)

By calling Okrent's smear and krugman's defensive of himself a "snarkfest" you are already trivializing attempts at accurate reporting by both Krugman and Okrent.
posted by afu at 11:23 AM on June 14, 2005 [1 favorite]


dial-tone is teh lame! p0wn3d! lolkthxbye!

*takes ball, goes home*
posted by dial-tone at 11:47 AM on June 14, 2005


What afu says: that Okrent had a job as an ombudsman is a sign of great problems at the NYT. Either you believe him, and then realize he wasn't doing his job at the NYT, and he can't even do it on the way out, or you wake up to reality and see that the ombudsman was a biased hack.

This is supposed to be the paper of record? Give me a break.

On a sad note, if we subject op-eds to fact checking (as we should), then the WSJ op-ed will simply disappear, as it seems to be a fact-free zone. Such a vaunted financial journal recently ran an op-ed in which an idiot writer made a justification for supply-side Reagan econ. without a) adjusting for inflation, b) adjusting for population growth, c) comparing numbers to see what they mean. Hack.

A wiki op-ed environment will not survive when the op-ed is really just propaganda.
posted by teece at 11:55 AM on June 14, 2005


caddis: thanks, but the award goes to the site I mentioned before sharing the link.
posted by grimcity at 12:06 PM on June 14, 2005


A link for those who wonder whether the charges against Krugman have merit.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:09 PM on June 14, 2005


Another.
posted by Kwantsar at 12:28 PM on June 14, 2005


grimcity, thier headline was "Many Americans call O'Reilly a journalist."
posted by caddis at 1:10 PM on June 14, 2005


if we subject op-eds to fact checking (as we should), then the WSJ op-ed will simply disappear, as it seems to be a fact-free zone.

I second that.

I also call bullshit on the kwantsar links.
posted by nofundy at 1:14 PM on June 14, 2005


Some more on the Krugman/Okrent cat fight.
posted by caddis at 1:31 PM on June 14, 2005


Caddis, you missed my point.
posted by grimcity at 4:11 PM on June 14, 2005


What about the fact that we now tend to see more actual facts in editorials and opeds than we do in actual news stories?
posted by amberglow at 6:26 PM on June 14, 2005


I also call bullshit on the kwantsar links.

Fortunately, people are free to read them and make up their own minds. But thanks for your utterly predictable and well-fleshed response. ~wink~
posted by Kwantsar at 7:44 PM on June 14, 2005


What about the fact that we now tend to see more actual facts in editorials and op-eds than we do in actual news stories?

Precisely why they should live up to journalistic standards similar to what reporters do. Right now I do not feel like I can really trust the facts on the op-ed page. I don't think Krugman gets his facts wrong; he's too smart for that (despite the stuff in Kwantsar's links which are for the most part nitpicking and semantic differences). I think he does sometimes use them a bit unfairly (also pointed out in Kwantsar's links). That is fair game in an opinion piece where you are trying to persuade. I prefer the less adversarial styles, such as you see on the Newshour, where the facts tend to be presented more neutrally and then you make your best argument given the facts and your political priorities. In any event, if op-ed writers were held to the same standard as reporters I think some folks such as Maureen Dowd and especially Ann Coulter would have their wings seriously clipped. Dowd appears careless at times, but Coulter just makes stuff up it seems.
posted by caddis at 9:07 PM on June 14, 2005


It depends on who you mean, and who would be doing the checking--if it's the NYT checking on their editorial and oped writers, why expect anything? They dutifully reported so many lies about Iraq that it would be meaningless, no?

Isn't the independence of the editorial staff and oped writers supposed to be the point? Wouldn't they then be subjected to the same pressures that made the Times run all the lies they did, too?
posted by amberglow at 9:17 PM on June 14, 2005


Look at Frank Rich--he covered Gannon, the Downing Street stuff...Wouldn't those things have been "factchecked" out? The regular paper barely touched those stories. And never uses direct, clear language the way he does. Rich doesn't have to worry about losing access or sources the way the news dept. does, and thus is free to talk about things they won't and don't.
posted by amberglow at 9:20 PM on June 14, 2005


I posted a medium-long analysis of the wikitorials thing on my new blog about Wikipedia.
posted by Tlogmer at 6:45 PM on June 16, 2005


Well that was quick.

That's a crazy link, so I'll repost the bulk:

LA Times suspends new online wikitorial feature

The Los Angeles Times' attempt to expand online journalism has taken a timeout. On Friday the Times' web site launched its first wikitorial, an online editorial that allows readers to add their own thoughts and even edit the piece. But the paper removed the feature on Sunday after a few jokesters bombarded the site with inappropriate language and pornography. The first wikitorial was a piece suggesting a better plan is needed to more efficiently remove U.S. troops from Iraq. Readers added comments and links to the piece, with some offering opposing views. But the number of inappropriate posts convinced The Times to remove the feature indefinitely.

posted by mrgrimm at 2:42 PM on June 21, 2005


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