Monday, February 02, 2009

Fact Checkered

In "How My Quote Ended Up on the CNN Article: (A story of Twitter, academia, and old journalism trying to be new but failing.)," David Parry describes how CNN rushed to seek a comment -- any comment -- from a professorial expert on the design of President Obama's new website. Parry had some reason to be mortified: his words in "Obama unveils new presidential Web site" that describe the appearance of the site in highly superficial terms as "more personal" and "more polished" than the "more transitional" official website of his predecessor hardly sound like the kind of scholarly analysis that he might want to be associated with.

Parry, who blogs about instructional technology and digital rhetoric at academHack, probably would have had more to say with more research and more than "two minutes" of reflection, but the reporter was eager to have a sound bite by the deadline to fit a just-in-time twenty-four-hour news cycle, as Parry explains in the following section of his blog post:

First the nature of the conversation didn’t particularly lend itself to me being an “expert” the entire conversation happening very quickly, and only covering the surface. I realize this is the nature of journalism, on TV you only get 30 seconds to make your point, but one this would clearly not have to be a limit placed on print journalism. More importantly I admitted early on that I had only looked at the site for a few moments, and thus didn’t really have much to say yet, but she was up against a deadline (more on this below) and thus just really needed the line “expert says” to legitimate the piece. Second, there are many others out there who are more qualified than me to comment on this both outside of academia and inside (I follow many people on Twitter who work outside of academia who would have much to add to this converation), my work is not particularly focused on the rhetoric of government websites, or digital politics, sure I have taught an undergraduate course in this, but I am by no means an expert (seriously if you want an expert you should consult Liz Losh at virtualpolitik).

Unfortunately, reporting in the mainstream media seems to be missing the more important and yet more subtle aspects of the web design of, which have some digital rights and privacy advocates very concerned. Check out the reporting at Surveillance State to see how the third-party commercial online video application YouTube and Internet cookies designed to track users have created mistrust of a site that represents public access, public interests, and the public record.

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