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Gresham's blogs

Not that I know much more about economics than a hog knows of Chaucer, but I have heard of Gresham's law: that money of low value will circulate more freely than money of higher value but the same face value. In the popular form, bad money chases out good. By extension, cheapness cheapens everything. *

One reason for readers to be leery of blogs is that many of them have not yet been housebroken. Their failure to follow these basic principles casts a shadow over the blogs that do. The cheap drives out the better. The same thing happens on unmoderated comment sites: soon the flood of anonymous racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, homophobic and xenophobic trash drives reasonable readers away.

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Thursday's New York Times carried this correction about one of its blogs:

A post in The Medium blog that appeared on Monday about the Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul and his purported adoption by white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups contained several errors. Stormfront, which describes itself as a "white nationalist" Internet community, did not give money to Ron Paul's presidential campaign; according to Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Paul's campaign, it was Don Black, the founder of Stormfront, who donated $500 to Paul. The original post also repeated a string of assertions by Bill White, the commander of the American National Socialist Workers Party, including the allegation that Paul meets regularly "with members of the Stormfront set, American Renaissance, the Institute for Historic Review and others" at a restaurant in Arlington, Va. Paul never attended these dinners, according to Benton, who also says that Paul has never knowingly met Bill White. Norman Singleton, a congressional aide in Paul's office, says that he met Bill White at a dinner gathering of conservatives several years ago, after which Singleton expressed his indignation at the views espoused by White to the organizer of the dinner. The original post should not have been published with these unverified assertions and without any response from Paul.

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It is highly commendable of The Times to acknowledge this error of judgment and to insist on adherence to the fundamental principles of journalism in its blogging as well as in its print edition. Don't print statements of fact unless you have checked them out. Don't print damaging statements of fact about people without giving them an opportunity to respond.

Add to those two these two: Don't make things up. Don't pass off other people's work as your own. They are not complicated propositions.

Check it out. Be fair. Be honest.

* I admitted in the first sentence that I'm an ignoramus. But go ahead anyway and comment on how stupid I am to misunderstand or misapply Gresham's law.

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