I noticed Esther Dyson's article in the Huffington Post and was prepared to be ready to riposte -- a number of us have been posting about the FTC's recent decision to require bloggers who get paid (in money or goods) to identify their affiliations, lest they be thought to be invisibly biased in their endorsements.
So I was surprised to see that this was not about the bloggers per se, but rather about seekers of information in media old or new, cautioning that they need to be their own fact checkers if they want to understand the real meaning of what they're reading.
That, of course, is good advice -- and it aways was. While we certainly have more people writing about nearly everything today, thanks to the easy access the Internet provides, it doesn't follow that older news sources were without their biases.
In fact, I read with great interest earlier today an article examining recent articles about the war in Afghanistan and the U.S.'s potential decision to increase its forces there, all from the New York Times. The point of the article was how biased the impact of the articles, taken as whole, might be -- essentially trying to influence going forward with a larger force in that war. That surprised me because I think of the New York Times as a "liberal" paper and try hard to read other, less liberal new sources to get a more balanced view of events.
Of course, the New York Times isn't paid by anyone who influences their editorial policy (except, perhaps, the management). And I can easily see who their advertisers are.
Bloggers, I think, are such a diverse group that any statement about bloggers in general is fairly certain to be wrong. Mommies writing blogs about the quality of diapers (and being paid to like one brand rather than another) are not at all like political bloggers (with specific points of view, but presumably those views are their own). Business and technology bloggers are a very assorted bunch. Some of them are all about the company they work for and its products; others are fiercely independent. Even a little fact checking should sort that out quickly.
Most long-term bloggers (the majority of blogs last for only a short time and have very limited audiences) live on their reputations. People are interested in what they have to say because they have opinions that are interesting or useful (or hopefully, both).
I'd like to assume that when I'm reading a blog that purports to be "news" that the information is factual, but I try not to leave my knowledge and common sense at home. When I read an "opinions" blog I read it because I like the way that blogger expresses himself. II may not agree with him, but I like the opportunity to read another point of view, well expressed.
And yes, it is my job to assure myself that the facts I read are actually facts.