If there is one thing that was drilled into my head in the last 8 years of my education, first in high school and then University, it is to always cite your sources. No matter if they are actually quoted from or not, if you used a source while researching something, cite it. Like so much of what I have learned at University however, that’s simply not the way it works in the real world. Case in point, a recent article on podcasting titled “Podcasting at a business near you”. It was written by Alex Dobrota, and published in the Globe and Mail on July 6th. Here’s an excerpt from the beginning:
Podcasting, which involves the distribution of personalized audio or video clips over the Internet to computers, laptops or digital audio players such as iPods, is becoming a new medium of communication in the corporate world. It’s being used to replace internal memos, blogs, e-mails and even trade shows. The up-and-coming technology is cost-efficient — in some cases, it requires little more than a microphone and a computer. And, as a marketing tool, it holds the potential of reaching a young and savvy audience, experts say.
Maybe the problem is that a journalist can simply put “experts say” and get away with it. In any case, I do believe I should be cited as a source for that entire paragraph. You see, Mr. Dobrota called me at around 1:30 PM on June 22nd to ask me some questions about podcasting (I remember this exactly because it was just moments after I got back to the office after the Oilers Tribute Event). He made it seem like I was being interviewed, which isn’t all that unsual given the publicity Paramagnus has received in the last few months. Evidently I was wrong. He started out asking what podcasting was, and the follow-up questions he asked made it seem as though he really didn’t have any idea what was so special about it, or why it was different than streaming audio.
After about ten minutes of covering the basics, he started asking questions about why businesses would get into podcasting, or if they already were. I mentioned the well-known case of IBM. I also said that basically, podcasting is great for businesses because they get an excellent return on investment – it costs very little to get going, and you can reach a huge audience fairly easily. I also mentioned that it was a great way for old stodgy businesses to seem hip and cool with the younger iPod carrying generation. Sounds kind of like the excerpt I mentioned above doesn’t it? Yep I thought so too.
I actually emailed Mr. Dobrota on July 1st, to ask if he had written the article. I never did get a reply from him, which makes this all the more aggravating.
Maybe there’s lots of reasons why he and other journalists can simply put “experts say”. You know, word count, page layout, that sort of thing. I just can’t help but think though, that with all the fuss about the blogosphere being a place full of unsubstantiated rumors, we’re missing that our so-called “mainstream media” don’t follow the rules either. Perhaps we should force journalists to publish a blog, properly citing their references, linking where appropriate? I don’t think it’s a bad idea. It might even have saved Dan Rather his job.
At the very least, had Mr. Dobrota kept a blog with his sources and references properly detailed, I might still have some respect for him.
Read: Globe and Mail