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Can blogs be objective vis-a-vis MSM ? November 4, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in blogging, media, politics.

Consider 2 bloggers X of left political persuasion and Y is from the right. For now lets focus not on social positions but on economic/trade related.

X regularly links to article such these from Paul Krugman :

Mr. Giuliani got his numbers from a recent article in City Journal, a publication of the conservative Manhattan Institute. The author gave no source for his numbers on five-year survival rates — the probability that someone diagnosed with prostate cancer would still be alive five years after the diagnosis. And they’re just wrong.

Y links to article B such as this from Greg Mankiw :

Our health care system is not perfect, but it has been a major source of advances in our standard of living, and it will be a large share of the economy we bequeath to our children. As we look at reform plans, we should be careful not to be fooled by statistics into thinking that the problems we face are worse than they really are.

For someone who is not really bothered with America’s healthcare problems, the summary is that Krugman thinks America’s healthcare is more screwed up than reported and Y thinks its less so.

Now both X and Y are not quantitative social scientists, to use a term broader than just ‘economists’ and as such are unable to independently and competently critique articles A and B, but they link to respective articles anyway.What do you do when you encounter Krugman’s article in X’s blog or Mankiw’s article in Y’s blog ?

In most cases, I just ignore it.

As a blogger, our defense would be that with other full-time jobs, family, community activities and errands to run, one seldom has time to come up with competent critiques of foreign subjects, so just outsource your thinking and put your faith in your favorite commentator – Krugman, Mankiw or Cowen, as the case may be. But even readers too have “full-time jobs, family, community activities and errands to run” and we don’t want to be saddled with the blogger’s long held positions and biases. Fair enough, ain’t it. 🙂

As a blogger I have no solution for this problem (other than to link to such stuff less frequently) and as a reader, I can afford to live with it I guess. But yeah, increasingly what kind of a blogger you are becomes more important than what you have to say on some issues – because your stand is predictable and credibility is at risk, even if your honesty/good intents are not in doubt.

Now note that both the articles I linked to appeared in the NYTimes within days of each other. So, mainstream media can at least make pretenses to objectivity (or some diversity in coverrage), but blogs with political content that are run by individuals or very small groups seldom should.

P.S: Closely related to “Political Philosophy as a consumer good.”

P.P.S : Just so I make it clear that I am not on some high horse, I am absolutely aware that the above discussion applies to this blog as well. If we meet up over coffee and you tell me that you ignore any content with an ideological hue when you read this blog, I will….I will just order another coffee. 🙂



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