Is this journalism?

For those of you who may have missed it, orangepolitics made page B1 in today's News & Observer

Intrepid reporter Anne Blythe draws generalizations from comments made here without any specific attribution and characterizes her anonymous source as "the town's political insiders."

Does Blythe know that A Voter, Winston Smith, or Coyote, to name a few, are political insiders? If so, how?

Surely there is a long tradition of anonymous attribution in the news business but I think it used to go like this: a reporter tries to find someone to go on the record on a story. She can't but she finds a potent statement from someone who wishes to remain anonymous and is called something like "an informed source" in the article. The readers then place as much confidence in that quote as they have in the writer's and editor's ability to find and vet a credible source.

Blythe's approach strikes me as the lazy way to build a story. If there are real people who care about it, it's supposed to be her job to find them. Similarly, if o-p is worth reporting on because there actually are "political insiders" here, then she ought to quote those people directly. It is certainly shoddy journalism to assume that the people spouting off here anonymously are anything more than internet junkies with too much time on their hands and an axe to burn.



I once saw someone on the local list refer to it as akin to a conversation at a party. We can use these forums to help stay informed and to listen to debate, but, for me, it's not something to rush into print.I worry that too much press focus here will inhibit some forum participants' speech while causing others to produce more heat than light.


PSS. If they didn't pay me like Moeser, perhaps they could lend me a copyeditor or at least spell check so I could spell Ministry correctly.

I'm amused to see two paragraphs in Kathleen Hunter's CHN story eerily reminiscent of the Anne Blythe passage we've criticized. The characterization of this forum as "frequented by some with an interest in town politics" is a bit duller, but to my mind more fair. However, I'd like to note that the description of the position opposing the deal has gotten stronger and is still unquoted -- no surprise, in that I haven't seen either of the two strongest negative terms in that description used on this site.

In other News news, I think it's telling that the person-on-the-street interviewer didn't turn up anybody who would say this deal was a problem. I can't believe they didn't try, as hard as they're pushing the story. Frankly, I think the collective shrug may be the way to go here.

At least, she and the copyeditor could have spelled elin o'Hara slavick's name correctly.

Your friendly but harmless drudge who is stuck inside the Ministry of Truth, but decidedly outside the inside of Chapel Hill politics,


PS I'm wishing the Minsitry of Truth would pay me the same as Jim Moeser is paid.

Agreed. Easily 50% of what gets posted on here is horseshit, and some portion of the rest is only educated speculation. (Nor do I think the posters on this board represent either a broad cross-section of the population or are, on the other hand, "insiders." I'm no insider, that's for sure)

I agree with you that there are few, if any circumstances, in which you should quote someone (or characterize the remarks of someone) on this board without trying to confirm that they actually exist.

Case in Point: I was a regular on one of the Carolina basketball bulletin boards throughout the season last year, and read it every day during the Doherty crisis. On that board, everyone was anonymous, and it was one of the main clearinghouses of rumor and accusations involving Doherty, almost of all of which were unsourced but came with the proviso, "I've got a source, trust me, I know what I'm talking about, etc." Very few of them turned out to be even close to the truth, but many of our local sportswriters would take the temperature of the board (and other similar boards) as if they represented the feelings of Tar Heel fans generally, and would occasionally report some of the rumors. They'd call them rumors, but giving them ink only gave them more longevity, more credibility.

(In fact, I think you'll find that sportswriters have adopted the reporting of what's happening in Internet boards and chatrooms as standard practice -- that way they don't have to get out of their chairs or away from the free buffet table in the press room to find out what people think.)

In any case, the whole mess was an object lesson in how it's possible to use anonymous rumor-mongering -- facillitated by anonymous postings to the boards -- to create a climate in which people begin to believe almost anything about someone. A climate of credulity you might call it -- something that arises when you've heard so much rumor, you begin to believe that at least _some_ of it must be true.

I hope that A.B., or any other reporter, doesn't start to use this board in a similar way. But I think we can avoid the pitfalls of the basketball boards by simply not giving any credit to anonymous postings of allegations or so-called "inside information" that isn't sourced. Plenty of the anonymous posters are already doing that, staying anonymous while providing links to documents, etc. An anonymous poster quoting an anonymous source ought to be dismissed out of hand -- it's not worth reading.

It's a self-policing thing, ultimately.


I agree that Rob's story is better sourced and certainly meatier, but in fairness, it should be pointed out that A.B. also quoted the tenant. However, she doesn't quote him at nearly the same length, and the quote (and attribution) she uses gets across only a certain wry bitterness -- rather than the fully formed, outraged criticism and sense of loss that I think best captures the actual response of Richardson and slavick.

Right. My beef is with Blythe's (mis)use of orangepolitics. For all she knows, every post on the house swap thread could be written by the same person (unless she checked with Ruby who can check the IP addresses).

So, minion, you liked Anne Blythe's story?

-A Voter

Alright, I confess, I am Gregor Samsa!

-James Moeser

Coyote is really me, Ken Broun. What an insider I am!


That's a lie. I am the real Coyote.

-Winston Smith

Hee hee hee.

-A Voter

Back to the original point, folks might want to compare Rob Shapard's article in today's Herald to Blythe's. (

Shapard finds a real critic of Hill's (the tenant) and a real defender (Don Stanford). He explains who they are so that we can understand their positions. It's called responsible journalism.

"Its failings notwithstanding, there is much to be said in favor of journalism in that by giving us the opinion of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community."

A enigma has plagued America for at least forty years. Very few people in Chapel Hill/Carrboro wake up in the morning planning to harm society. Yet, many liberal positions -- I emphasize liberal positions rather than liberals because most people who call themselves liberal do not hold classic liberal positions -- have been wreaking havoc on America and the world.


There are many reasons for modern liberal positions, but the two greatest may be naivete and narcissism. Each alone causes problems, but when combined in the same person, they are particularly destructive.


At the heart of modern liberalism is the naive belief that people are basically good. As a result of this belief, liberals rarely blame people for the evil they do. Instead, they blame economics, parents, capitalism, homOphobia, racism, and anything else that can let the individual off the hook.


A second naive liberal belief is that because people are basically good, talking with people who do evil is always better than fighting, let alone killing, them. "Negotiate with Saddam," "Understand Osma," "War never solves anything," "Peace is Patriotic," -- the liberal mind is filled with naive cliches about how to deal with evil.


Indeed, the very use of the word "evil" greatly disturbs liberals. It shakes up their child-like views of the world, that everybody is at heart a decent person who is either misunderstood or led to do unfortunate things by outside forces.


"Child-like" is operative. The further left you go, the less you like growing up. That is one reason so many professors are on the left. Never leaving school from kindergarten through adulthood enables one to avoid becoming a mature adult. It is no wonder a liberal professor has recently argued that children should have the vote. He knows in his heart that he is not really an adult, so why should he and not a chronologic child be allowed to vote?


The second major source of modern liberalism is narcissism, the unhealthy preoccupation with oneself and one's feelings. We live in the Age of Narcissism. As a result of unprecedented affluence and luxury, preoccupation with one's psychological state, and a hedonistic culture, much of the West, America included, has become almost entirely feelings-directed.


That is one reason "feelings" and "compassion" are two of the most often used liberal terms. "Character" is no longer a liberal word because it implies self-restraint. "Good and evil" are not liberal words either as they imply a moral standard beyond one's feelings. In assessing what position to take on moral or social questions, the liberal asks him or herself, "How do I feel about it?" or "How do I show the most compassion?" not "What is right?" or "What is wrong?" For the liberal, right and wrong are dismissed as unknowable, and every person chooses his or her own morality.


A good example of liberal narcissism is the liberal position on abortion. For the liberal, the worth of a human fetus, whether it is allowed to live or to be extinguished, is entirely based on the feelings of the mother. If the mother wants to give birth, the fetus is of incomparable worth; if the mother doesn't, the fetus has the value of a decayed tooth. To fully understand their "feelings", I have often thought that women should have the Baby, then if after birth they still don't want it, they should be allowed to kill it and call Planned Parenthood for disposal. What is the difference?


There are not many antidotes to this lethal combination of naivete and narcissism. Both are very comfortable states compared to growing up and confronting evil, and compared to making one's feelings subservient to a higher standard. And comfortable people don't like to be made uncomfortable. Just ask any Pastor on Franklin Street.


Hence the liberal attempt to either erase the Judeo-Christian code or at least remove its influence from public life. Nothing could provide a better example of contemporary modern liberalism than the ACLU battle to remove the Ten Commandments from all public places. Liberals want suggestions

...not Commandments.

God Didn't ask us to do or NOT do these 10 things. He Said, "I Command You". That is why they are called "Commandments".

What of the following quote?

"Some of Hill's political rivals say he should have outlined the details of his swap during the campaign."

What rivals? Where's the attribuition?

Right on K! It's a bit early in the '07 election cycle to be calling anybody anybody else's rival, methinks.

I see the danger of loose attribution, which may be the result of a reporter's casual shorthand -- the fact that political insiders can post here (they do!) anonymously doesn't mean that no one else posts here (I do, too!). The looseness of the attribution is in the brisk and uninformative "some describe" -- I'd feel better if it were even so much as "some who have posted describe".

My own concern: the reporter mined her characterization of the two (two? is that all?) positions on this site with a loaded word, the openly insulting term "sellout". The loosely attributed "some political insiders" introduce it into the story with no quotation marks at all.

I think anonymous postings here are potentially more than worthy of citation as sources. That's why I'm happy that the N&O reports that "traffic is heavy" here. But this is a new medium, and I hope reporters will cite with care. When insults show up, perhaps they should be quoted to a person (even if it's anonymous).

I'm sure every actual "political insider", here or otherwise, is within reach of a reporter from the N&O who really wants to look. If nobody would use invective for attribution, there's no call for the local paper to do so.

That's a serious lapse. Still, I liked some of the reporting. I think Hill's quote makes a strong case clearly, and I think the Joyce Brown quote is a real gem. So yes, I'd have to answer the thread's title; this is journalism. Warts and all.

Let me add that my own Herald article on o-p on 11/1 quoted the pseudonymous Gregor Samsa. But, a) I didn't characterize him as anything other than clever, and b) I at least referred to a specific quote. and, c) the article was about o-p, not lamely using o-p anonymous postings as a source without bothering to explain why they are significant. Perhaps Blythe or her editor will respond to that point: Why are anonymous postings here worthy of citation as sources as done in her article? How is that journalism?


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