Google helps LA Times redefine ‘defensive’

August 17, 2007

The Los Angeles Times made headlines in the past year with its declaration that it needs to catch up with the Web (see: We are Web stupid), but it looks like the editorial board might have missed the e-mail — if it has e-mail.

An editorial on Friday titled “It’s Not Journalism” tossed darts at Google over its plan to let people comment on articles that show up on the search engine’s Web site. As the board noted:

For example, if The Times ran another exposé on conflicts of interest within the Food and Drug Administration’s drug-approval process, Google News would provide a forum for the FDA and any researchers or drug manufacturers implicated in the story to respond, unedited.

Merciful heavens! The Times suggested that this could have some benefits, but pointed out that what Google does is NOT JOURNALISM, whereas what the Times does IS JOURNALISM.

This did not impress Robert Niles at the Online Journalism Review, who faulted the Times on nearly every sentence in a commentary titled “The L.A. Times tells its readers: ‘Shut up.’ It’s a long piece, but here’s what he says for starters:

The Los Angeles Times this morning insulted its readers in a stunning editorial that compared Google with Osama bin Laden and showed why Times editors simply do not understand the medium that is growing to dominate the news publishing industry.

Niles also took issue with this comment: According to the company’s announcement, its only interest is that the submissions are authentic, not that they’re relevant or even truthful. As a result, the comments section is likely to be larded with spin, hype and obfuscation. A seemingly heartfelt comment may carry the CEO’s name, but the words will probably have been typed by corporate flacks.

Here’s what he said: “Stenography” journalism runs rampant at newspapers which have cut reporting staffs to the bone. Readers of Dan Froomkin’s outstanding White House Watch will be familiar with many examples of Washington-beat scribes dutifully “reporting” U.S. administration spin, with no effort to provide context or determine truth.

He saves most of his vitriol for the perception that the Times doesn’t get that engaging readers these days involves making the news a two-way street.

What do you think? Are comments key to the future of journalism? Or are they a cesspool of lies, rudeness and pointless fustigation? I, for one, would love to see your comments about that.

The Times, as you might guess, did not invite readers to weigh in.


Yes no wonder that online news publishing would be the future. it is time for newspapers to understand that interactivity with readers forms an essential part


The Times is right…this isn’t JOURNALISM!

Posted by RIF | Report as abusive

free speech is a one-way street. Just because you only have to look one way before crossing means 51 percent representation. Follow the law.


Hello RIF: It seems pretty clear that leaving reader comments doesn’t amount to journalism, but I found myself confused by something:

The Times was at pains to label something as journalism and something as not journalism, but then seemed that its fears about reader comments had little to do with whether Google is a journalistic outlet or not.

What do you think about the readers comments posted on Google, with no ability by the Times staff to edit or restrict them?

Posted by Robert MacMillan | Report as abusive