Is The Boston Globe In Agony Over Peter Quinn?
Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist whose views I quite often agree with recently wrote about the less thoughtful folks in the Blogosphere, who write without consideration for the consequences their words may carry. While I agree that we should ignore these thoughtless word thugs, I am also wary of the Pharisees in the established press. After all, I don't exactly see the Boston Globe agonizing over its treatment of Massachusetts' former CIO, Peter Quinn.
To some extent, it depends on whose blogs you read. The Blogosphere seems to work much like life itself, where the people you hang out with will also be the ones who most influence you. Thus, those who typically deserve to be ignored are. Not that people don't come a runnin' to see a good fight. Still, thoughtless bloggers may get the spotlight for a moment, but as soon as people see them for who they are, they'll ignore them. The people who will be attracted to them are typically in the same moral boat. Thus, if you're smart and observant, you'll ignore the ignorant bloggers. Ms. Parker, I'm on board with you here.
However, Ms. Parker's words are pharisaic, especially in light of the Boston Globe's treatment of Peter Quinn. She writes, "Say what you will about the so-called mainstream media, but no industry agonizes more about how to improve its product, police its own members and better serve its communities. Newspapers are filled with carpal-tunneled wretches, overworked and underpaid, who suffer near-pathological allegiance to getting it right." I think that the Boston Globe has at least one reporter - not to speak of the editors responsible for placing the articles - who has not yet developed this "near-pathological allegiance to getting it right".
The Boston Globe published on the front page, for all the world to notice, an article essentially outlining charges against Peter Quinn, that later proved to be false. The Boston Globe then buried his acquittal in the middle of the paper for the world to find. Thus, a good man's reputation has been tarnished with only the most feeble attempt, on the part of the Boston Globe, at restoring his reputation. Where is the justice is in this? As a man of faith, as a member of the clergy, I am called upon to act justly, to do justice. Therefore, I call upon the Boston Globe to give Mr. Quinn some sense of justice. The very least they could do is to offer a public apology for their grave disregard for his reputation.
In sharp contrast to a newspaper sold on the street, blog entries generally spend at least a few hours on the front page. There is more opportunity for people to see corrections, retractions and apologies than in a printed publication. While not a blog, LXer.com (Linux News), offers news in a blog-like fashion. When I ran a story containing some errors, I followed up with an update correcting those errors. The statistics show that the corrective story was read by nearly as many people as the original story. The audience may have changed a bit, but we can safely assume many of the readers were the same. The same possibilities apply to blogs in the "brutal blogosphere".
By contrast, a news story printed in the middle of the front section is not as likely to be read as a story published on the front page. People who became intimately familiar with the charges against Peter Quinn - or any other person against whom false statements have been made - may never realize that he has been acquitted. We can argue that it's their own fault for not reading the whole newspaper. However, it makes more sense for the newspaper to have published the acquittal story on the front page to attract more attention to the fact that Quinn had been exonerated. After all, if the press is so interested in "getting it right", why not make it right?
Many in the libre software community believe, correctly or not, that there is a tie to Microsoft in all of this. It could be a government staffer, or a Microsoft employee. It could have been someone who merely supports Microsoft. Whatever one believes about how these false accusations came about, the Boston Globe should be agonizing over its failure to treat Mr. Quinn fairly. I would like to think that Ms. Parker can be likened to Nicodemus, the Pharisee who obviously was aware of the flaws of his peers. Perhaps she'll join the call for justice.
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