The Editor as Safety Net (Bloggers Work Without One)
Writer-producer-director Rod Lurie, a former reporter and critic, makes some key but seldom-heard points about the importance of editors in The Wrap, where he takes on the "insidious power" of "the independent reporter/blogger":
In most cases, these reporters have no editors or lawyers to vet a story -- either as a fact-checking measure or to determine whether there is exposure to a libel lawsuit. These items are often the product of the journalist's agendas -- sometimes large and sometimes petty.
In their items they wing around accusations and rumors as if they were fact (even if they "protect their integrity" by acknowledging up front that this is something they "hear"). Very often, they have agendas or scores to settle. They can be destructive and dangerous -- not just to the people whom they write about but to the state and art of journalism itself.
The "agenda" angle may be overblown -- reporters and critics with no agenda beyond doing their jobs are routinely accused of harboring one -- but it's true as far as it goes, and certainly Lurie is right about the danger of committing libel, which editors are likely to forestall. A good editor is a good safety net. Indie bloggers, whether they like it or not, are working without that.
One interesting protection that these journalists have is that their pockets are not so deep that it makes it worth the while of a complainant to sue them. But something has to and will happen or the entire institution of journalism -- which will soon become almost exclusively Internet journalism -- will be dead and buried.
Lurie also assails the "vitriol and vicious gossip mongering" of anonymous blog posters. "We have a right to know who these people writing are," he argues, "because they are attacking semi-public/private people with such ferocity that we should know what their agendas are."