The revenge of the source

Interesting post this morning on ojr about journalists, blogs and their sources. Mark Glaser notes the interesting case of billionaire sporting and tech entrepreneur, Mark Cuban, who is using his blog to strike back when interviews are not reported the way he would like. It’s hardly the revenge of the little guy, but it presents an interesting dynamic in terms of journalist/source power relations. Glaser sets the scene:

You interview someone by e-mail. You write up the story and edit what they said, condensing their quotes to a few saliable points. Your story runs, and that’s that, you think. But to your surprise, your source decided to post all the interview questions and answers on their Weblog, showing the public that you cut something important to them.

More and more, blogs are giving sources the power to strike back and making journalists think twice about what they run in a story and how they conduct an interview. Case in point: Billionaire technology entrepreneur Mark Cuban, who also owns the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks basketball team, launched a blog last spring and quickly posted an e-mail exchange he had with Dallas Morning News sports columnist Kevin Blackistone.

The most interesting aspect of this story is the extremely defensive reaction of the journalist, Kevin Blackistone:

While Cuban wrote that the best thing about a blog was that “I get to respond to the media,” Blackistone wasn’t too thrilled that Cuban had posted their e-mail exchange. “I didn’t think much of being surprised by having what I thought was a private exchange with Mark Cuban posted on a public Web site,” Blackistone told me via e-mail. “That is a reason I stopped responding to readers years ago, because I discovered they started posting my personal responses to them on message boards.”

This again highlights the way blogs are shifting notions of public and private communications. In many ways this is the most fundamental challenge of the blogsphere and its most serious challenge to traditional journalism.

Blackistone regards the exchange as private because to him it is a set of working notes, the exchange is raw data that only becomes a a piece of journalism through his application of professional skill. This is a product oriented, journalist centered, view of journalism that doesn’t properly acknowledge the exchange value or the process of journalism. For Cuban of course the exchnage is not just data, it is an act of self representation because he is aware that anything he says to a journalist can be made public.

While not everyone interviewed by a journalist is going to have a blog, the very fact that some people do may begin to have a ripple effect and help to enact a new paradigm in thinking about the respective rights and values of interviewers and interviewees. A good journalist will of course welcome the kind of interaction that Blackistone seems to find so irksome. But even good journalists need to think more about the public and private dimensions of their practice and work towards a model of transparent journalism that is about dialogue not pronouncement.

This brings me back to the comments about McLuhan’s notions of “publicy” and privacy that I posted about last month: “Blogging is an “outering” of the private mind in a public way (that in turn leads to the multi-way participation that is again characteristic of multi-way instanteous communictions.)” (Mark from the McLuhan project)

In any journalistic encounter a source is prepared for this “outering” but a journalist often hides behind a shield of privacy in the very act of making things public.

Interestingly Cuban also has his own reality TV show, which of course is a whole other set of public/private inversions.

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