Saturday, January 26, 2008
Monday Jan 28 Blog
God bless the Blogosphere which is the electronic equivalent of the town hall meeting without the town or the hall. But not so fast with the blessing for those who show up to play fast and loose with the facts just because it fits their political agenda. And that applies to practitioners from both the right and the left of the political spectrum. Case in point. The conservative blog known as RightMichigan, had a field day recently with one of its favorite whipping boys, the democratic Speaker of the Michigan House Rep. Andy Dillon from Redford. Dillon was on a panel recently in front of a bunch of road builders and others who want to get their hands on your wallet to build and repair the highway system. There's been some chatter at the state capitol recently about raising the gas tax to do it. Dillon was asked if he would allow a vote on boosting the gas tax in the Lame Duck session of the Michigan House. Lame Duck is held after the November election when everyone is safely reelected and there is little fear of a voter's revolt. Dillon volunteered that such a vote was "probable." Note that he didn't say there would be a vote nor did he say he supported a gas tax hike. All he said was there might be a vote. But moments later, when it sunk in that what he said might be misinterpreted, he tacked this on, "The probability is not necessarily on one particular tax, but it's the desire to get the funding necessary to address the problem." So putting his two statements together, you got the feeling that Dillon wanted to vote on some form of revenue for the roads but not the gas tax per se. RightMichigan, somehow, got a hold of the Dillon comments but it did not run both statements. Instead writer Nick DeLeeuw took to the blogasphere with a lead paragraph that boldly stated the Dillon "was going to take a vote" on the gas tax in the Lame Duck. The statement was patently not true, but there it was for unsuspecting folks to read including Oakland County Commissioner Eileen Kowall of White Lake. After she read the bog, she hurriedly dashed off a nasty press release denouncing Dillon for telling the gathering that "his caucus WAS (emphasis added) going to take a vote on raising the gas tax but not until after the general election in November…." Later on she pointed out that Dillon did say the vote was "probable" and RightMichigan reported the same thing. Maybe these guys flunked dictionary, but "probable" does not mean there will be a vote. Did RightMichigan or Kowall call Dillon to get his side of the story? Did RightMichigan or Kowall call the group that sponsored the event to get its take? Did Right Michigan or Lowell call the moderator of the panel discussion to get his observations? Look it. If anyone has a beef with Mr. Dillon, they certainly have a right to air it, but just because you don't embrace somebody's political leanings, that is not an excuse to print misleading statements without at least giving the poor slug a chance to defend him or herself. Is there an amen from anybody out there? Tried to get one from Mr. DeLeeuw, but he is totally comfy with not presenting all sides of the story as he argues Dillon was only attempting to "muddy the waters" with his clarification statement. "If anyone in the blogosphere tells you that he doesn't have a bias or that his bias doesn't affect what he writes about, then he's lying to you. But there's nothing wrong with having a bias either. The blogosphere is a different place than the realm of traditional journalism," he suggests. This blogging stuff is a revolutionary way to stimulate public discourse, and boost participation in the democracy, but let's be blunt, this is the Wild Wild West. If you've got a P.C. you're an instant journalist.
Welcome to the club but with admission comes some responsibility to try to get the story right. Trying to get it right may sound old fashion, but without that standard some readers may be mislead and that does a disservice to our democracy. For bloggers who adhere to the philosophy, don't let the facts get in the way of a good story, go to your room.