The Washington Post Doesn’t Know A Blog From A Message Board

[UPDATE: I’ve been corresponding via email with Robert MacMillan, the writer of the Washington Post story I mention here. As soon as I have his permission, I’ll post his response. OK – the email exchange is here.]

SO – A journalist teaching a class at Boston University does something stupid, it bounces around a corner of the blogosphere, and the Washington Post picks it up, resulting in about 100 posts about whether or not educators should blog, when and where journalists should blog, what should and shouldn’t be talked about on your blog.

One problem.

Michael Gee, ex-Boston Herald sports writer, posted his ill-advised commentary on the “incredibly hot” student with the “bitchin’ bod” on a message board. Check out the WaPo article, and click on the link to the “blog” Robert MacMillan cites: SportsJournalists.com.

There is no blog present.

What you see is called a message board, or a forum, and has existed for quite a long time.

By calling this a “blog,” MacMillan stamps this sordid little episode with a certain stigma – throw in blogging vs. journalism and “should educators blog?” and you end up with the oh-so juicy headline “Don’t Blog So Close To Me.”

Love the headline, hate the complete lack of attention being paid to different methods of communication.

The message board is the water cooler, nay, the corner bar. If Gee was posting this sort of thing on a blog, even if it was just personal stuff and not about journalism or education, then he’d still be an asshole, but he’d be an asshole with a blog.

MacMillan wrote in his WaPo article:

“There are millions of blogs out there, so many that conventional wisdom says most attract few readers at best. So it’s easy to understand why some bloggers provide commentary and observations that might raise eyebrows at the dinner table, the water cooler — or the human resources department.”

This is misinformation that plays up a few recent articles on the “dangers” of blogging, playing to a crowd waiting for people speaking their minds to put their feet in their mouths.

Mr. MacMillan, what if a blogger started referring to you as someone who wrote a column in the local newsletter called The Washington Post? What would your reaction be?

To the 100+ bloggers who reacted before they bothered to click on a link in the story and check where Gee had made his idiotic remarks…you’re not helping by buying into the stigma and repeating it.

Not everything written online is a blog entry.

This is.

[tags]michael gee, robert macmillan, MacMillan, WaPo, Wasington Post, education, blogs, journalism, media[/tags]

6 Replies to “The Washington Post Doesn’t Know A Blog From A Message Board”

  1. Ryan:

    Being one of the bloggers concerned, I have to say fair fisk and will acknowledge the error. Still, it was stupid, crass and unprofessional – if you’re going to drool over your students, go for the low-tech solution of a diary and a desk drawer with a lock. Jerk off, if you must. But just try keeping it to yourself.

  2. Thanks for pointing out the discrepancy in MacMillan’s reporting, but let’s not get caught up in semantics.

    The communication was still made public, board or blog – no matter.

    Wasn’t the message board a predecessor of the weblog?

    The point I was making in my posting was that this guy’s behavior was inappropriate when it became public. His immature musings cast a nasty cloud on what I found to be a rather healthy place for discourse and learning.

    I am not overly concerned or interested in arguing over the format of the communication, but rather I am sincerely invested in what the implications and consequences of this action might mean to educators.

  3. Prof. Dunleavy – I whole-heartedly agree that Gee’s drivel and drool doesn’t help the cause of online discourse, but I don’t think I’m splitting hairs when I call out MacMillan for getting the format wrong.

    To write “Gee posted these remarks to a message board at yaddayadda.com” does not carry the same weight as writing that Gee was fired “after sharing inappropriate thoughts about a student on a blog.”

    (I do appreciate that it’s “a blog” and not “his blog” – there’s one subtle step of understanding there.)

    There’s a stigma brewing here, and it’s that blogging will get you in trouble, especially if you’re an educator. Recall the Chronicle of Higher Ed article from earlier this month.

    I don’t think it’s defensible to start using one format as shorthand for “everything written on the web.” Gee is not a blogger. He’s a guy who posted something stupid to a message board. I think there’s a difference.

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