On Credibility

Along with people like Kelly Sedinger and Jennifer Weber, I’m proud to have been among the pioneers of blogging in Buffalo. They’re still at it, and so are others, but among the smattering of politically-oriented blogs, mine was one of the first.  Although it’s changed a lot over the years, one of the challenges of blogging about politics was overcoming questions about credibility. Like respect, it has to be earned; you have to write coherently, keep it interesting, have a basic grasp of spelling and grammar, and get more things right than not.

Occasionally, I’ve seen local bloggers try to leapfrog over the time and work needed to establish that credibility.  My perspective is that bad blogging hurts everyone – not just the now-misinformed reader, but also other bloggers. It cheapens and diminishes the medium, so I occasionally feel the need to defend what’s left of it.

In early December a local political rumormonger wrote that U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of NY, Preet Bharara, would be indicting Governor Andrew Cuomo on January 2nd. I fisked the article and explained, in detail, why that was not just unlikely – but legally inaccurate to the point of impossibility. The reason why I felt compelled to do that? It had been picked up by numerous people and online publications. Diane Ravitch linked to it. So did others. Someone posted it to Daily Kos. The nominally conservative blogger was proud of that:

Well, January 2nd came and went, and as I predicted, there was no indictment – not by Preet Bharara, and not by a grand jury. The entire story was completely made up – utter fiction.

Don’t let a good and attractive story destroy your common sense. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If the story is poorly written, if it misstates facts easily verifiable through Google, if it cites unnamed “sources” of dubious pedigree, stay skeptical.

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