That ain't news
You and your blogger buddies have shown that you've become an important force in local news with the story of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's affair. But you guys also put out a lot of rumors too. And that's not really journalism.
Let me first give you credit. It was your blog that scooped everyone back in January by reporting that the mayor was no longer wearing a wedding ring. The Los Angeles Times followed up on that with a story that included the now-infamous excuse from the mayor's aides: The ring no longer fit because he had lost some weight.
Then, several weeks ago, after the mayor announced that he and his wife were separating, some local blogs began posting anonymous reports that he was having an affair with the Spanish-language newscaster Mirthala Salinas. It was something people had suspected for awhile, and yet no mainstream media organization carried the story. Then, finally, a Daily News reporter obtained an interview with the mayor's mother-in-law and was able to get the mayor to corroborate the rumor. After that, everybody else followed.
So the independent blogs pushed the traditional media outlets in town to report news they probably should have reported earlier.
Congratulations, bloggers, for getting the big, slow giants to do their jobs.
However, some of you folks also posted a lot of other stuff that was just plain gossip. Names, rumors and scandalous scenarios were thrown around in the blogosphere. I read lists of "potential" mayoral girlfriends.
Much of this could not be (or has not yet been) verified. Not that you gave it much of an effort!
For some bloggers this is no big deal. They circulate accusations from anonymous sources without even bothering to try to confirm them. If the material turns out to be wrong or defamatory, so what?
That makes for some fascinating reading, but it's not the same thing as real reporting, and it's no substitute for credible journalism.
The rumors need to be checked out, which takes effort and time. When someone's reputation is at stake, don't you have a responsibility to be careful?
Luke, I know you believe that you are part of a revolution that's taking place. Media barons no longer control the flow of information. Anyone with a laptop can be a reporter.
But I hope there's still a place in journalism for trusted, reliable brands. To me that means, as my first boss lectured, "We don't report rumors" and "It's better to be late on a story than to get it wrong."
Eric Spillman has been a reporter for the "KTLA Morning Show" since 1991. He blogs at ktla.com.
Atoning for my sins