I Gotcher “Context” Right Here

Filed under:Blogging,Language Barrier,Need a Good Editor? — posted by Anwyn on June 25, 2008 @ 6:29 am

The AP’s recent demand for bloggers to stop quoting them without payment, in a petulant bout of trying to unilaterally do away with fair use, included the pretext that people needed to read entire AP stories “in context” rather than bloggers’ selected quotes.

“Cutting and pasting a lot of content into a blog is not what we want to see,” he said. “It is more consistent with the spirit of the Internet to link to content so people can read the whole thing in context.”

No serious blogger I’m aware of quotes material without providing a link. Except maybe to the AP in the light of this silliness. But that’s beside my point today, which is that somebody should clue Time magazine into how this works. In an article linked by Hot Air headlines today, Time quotes a phrase from Rachel Lucas’s post on the pregnant teenagers in Gloucester: “marauding narcissistic sluts”–a phrase so strikingly crafted, by the way, that I recognized it and its source instantly upon reading it in Time, but you’d never know who said it if you just read Time. Moreover, you’d be informed that it came from a “conservative” blog, a description Rachel herself would certainly take exception to.

A blog at The Village Voice did a little better, linking Rachel directly in discussing her pronouncement that all teenagers should undergo mandatory sterilization, but failing to include what the AP would no doubt describe as context: The fact that Rachel doesn’t really support mandatory sterilization.

This is one of the pitfalls of blogging, that if people don’t read you regularly they may miss posts that explain some of your hyperbole, that mitigate some of your rhetoric, that outright say some things are satire or just an over-the-top rant. But at the very least, sources like Time ought to see an obligation to provide a link that allows people to judge for themselves what the person quoted is saying and what she means by it. The MSM has been doing this forever, quoting people at the scene of whatever incident they’re reporting and identifying those people by name, even though that adds no additional “context” to the story and not much about the mindset of the person being quoted. Now that the mindset and context are available out the ears, the MSM doesn’t seem interested in people’s real opinions or the reasoning behind them, or even, in this case, identification of the speaker–because that would involve sending readers’ eyes elsewhere, to mere mortals with blogs, and everybody knows they’re not real content providers, but just unreliable cut-and-pasters with no context of their own.

It’s a backward stance and a hypocritical one–if you’re going to cite bloggers, you need to identify the source, at the very least just as you would identify the speaker in a news story and at the very most with a link that provides the “context” the AP was so exercised about. If bloggers are such peons unworthy your notice, then stop quoting them at all. Oh, wait–they come up with really juicy phrases like “marauding narcissistic sluts,” don’t they? Too good not to quote, too bad to ID and link. Poor, poor MSM caught in the web–the World Wide Web, that is.

Update: Commenter Buzzion notes that the article no longer describes the blogs in question, including Rachel’s, as “conservative.” That’ll teach me to always screencap. The text now reads:

Some blogs hosted a righteous orgy of “slutshaming,” denouncing Gloucester’s “marauding narcissistic sluts” for following the toxic example of movie stars and the Spears sisters, and longing for the return of the scarlet letter.

This morning it said “Some conservative blogs hosted …” I’m (reasonably) certain of that because it was the first thing I emailed Rachel about it. You can take my word for it or not, as it is secondary to the point–that they should be linking or IDing by name blogs they quote, no matter from what spot on the political spectrum.


  1. Good catch, Anwyn. Your attention to detail is impressive!

    Comment by Redhead Infidel — June 25, 2008 @ 10:36 am

  2. Yeah, but providing a link, and giving context is anathema to lazy reporters who don’t want to be fact-checked or to have their narrative altered by reality.

    Comment by Joan of Argghh! — June 25, 2008 @ 10:51 am

  3. Not sure if they changed the article from when you wrote this but I did not see a mention of them referring to Rachel’s comment as coming from a conservative blog.

    Comment by buzzion — June 25, 2008 @ 11:51 am

  4. Thanks, buzzion, I’ve updated.

    Comment by Anwyn — June 25, 2008 @ 12:02 pm

  5. And thanks, Redhead Infidel–one of those serendipitous things that sometimes happens. The phrase struck me forcibly when I read it at Rachel’s, so it kind of jumped screaming out at me from the Time piece.

    Like the “Canary Trap” Tom Clancy described in one of his books–a phrase so good they just *had* to quote.

    Comment by Anwyn — June 25, 2008 @ 1:35 pm

  6. TIME sux almost as much as Newsweek.

    You can quote me on that.

    Comment by dogette — June 25, 2008 @ 1:45 pm

  7. This is one of the pitfalls of blogging, that if people don’t read you regularly they may miss posts that explain some of your hyperbole, that mitigate some of your rhetoric, that outright say some things are satire or just an over-the-top rant.

    It wouldn’t matter … I listen to Rush Limbaugh pretty much every day, and people take him out of context, misquote, and downright *lie* about what he says, no matter how he explains or amplifies or elucidates. People with an agenda will not stop in the face of logic or explanation.

    Comment by iamfelix — June 25, 2008 @ 3:34 pm

  8. “People with an agenda will not stop in the face of logic or explanation. ”

    That is spot on, Iamfelix. That’s certainly been my experience. No amount of concrete truth moves such people.

    Comment by Morris — June 25, 2008 @ 5:33 pm

  9. Great catch. Rachel Lucas linked to you, and I see that you also track all things silly in Oregon. As I live in Tri-Cities, WA, you now become indispensable reading for me. Thanks for the work!

    Comment by hoody — June 25, 2008 @ 9:53 pm

  10. It used to be taught, with a withering eye cast on the shruggers, that every news report must supply with accuracy the Who, What, Where, How and Why. But no. Not anymore. Not for a very long time. It’s been Lord of the Flies for a while now.

    Comment by alexa kim — June 25, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

  11. Aynwyn, thanks for catching this. I mentioned your efforts him in my reaction.

    Comment by Brad K. — June 25, 2008 @ 11:10 pm

  12. I googled for the Time article, and Google’s cached version definitely says “Conservative blogs” – just so you don’t go doubting your memory too much.


    Comment by Dvw — June 26, 2008 @ 9:00 am

  13. Thanks, Dvw. I’ve been traveling the last couple days. Good to know I wasn’t imagining things.

    Comment by Anwyn — June 28, 2008 @ 9:37 am

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