The Truth Squad – an attempt to do something about the bad weather in journalism
March 11, 2009 by William K. Wolfrum
There are a lot of good things about being an independent blogger. Independent bloggers have the freedom to write about whatever topic they wish, in any style. For many independent bloggers, freedom of expression is a daily occurrence.
There are some pretty palpable downsides to being an independent blogger, though. Obviously, the pay isn’t great, and normally non-existent. More that that, however, is a general lack of respect. Bloggers today are often treated as rumor-mongers who have nothing to offer the public debate. Even President Barack Obama - possibly the most blogged-about human on the planet – casually writes off bloggers in public.
For the most part, this is just part of the game. Nonetheless, independent bloggers have the power to change some of these perceptions through a variety of ways. One way, which I used in the above post “Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne’s attacks on financial journalists are false” is to use what we’ve loosely termed a “Truth Squad.”
The idea was proposed to me by Diane Tucker of The Huffington Post. The concept is to have bloggers use some of the same techniques as mainstream journalists. In the case of “Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne’s attacks on financial journalists are false,” I had ample help.
The “team” we created went like this: I would handle the research and writing of the story. Tucker – an award-winning journalist – acted as my editor, giving me tips and proofreading the post. Filmmaker Dan Mirvish – one of the creators of the Martin Eisenstadt Hoax – offered help as someone with expertise in hidden Internet identities and hoaxes. Karl Mamer – the Conspiracy Skeptic – gave me some ideas on where to look to find posts on conspiracy theories and finance.
While this made up the main team, others offered their expertise. Gary Weiss – a journalist who has long covered Byrne and Overstock.com – was always quick to return e-mails and answer questions.
With that backing in place, and with interviews conducted over Skype, the telephone and e-mail, I was able to not just research and produce a journalism post, but I was able to do so in such a way that I knew my bases were covered, and that my reporting was factual. The end result is a post I stand behind completely.
Tucker and I both believe this process can be used by other bloggers and others that are interested in producing journalistic posts. Coming from newspaper backgrounds, where things are often done in more of a team environment, we found that this process spurred me on and gave me the chance to produce something I am proud of.
In the end, I suppose it comes down to the old saying “Everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it.” I have complained about the mainstream media as much as anyone, and this was a chance to do something about it.
Perhaps what I liked most about this process is that I never had to give up any of my freedom. While my team kept me on track and offered great advice, this was my story. And I was able to keep my journalistic beliefs intact. And I truly believe that many bloggers have the same opportunity by using contacts they have made on the Internet.
Whatever happens with the “Truth Squad” concept, I’m proud to have been a part of it. And whether or not this becomes an accepted model for some bloggers to follow, I’m happy that Tucker included me in this plan. We have done something. And we hope you do, too.