Accuracy in Media

The tiff between the New York Times executive editor Bill Keller and the Hufffington Post continues to rage on after Keller’s latest blog post did little to cool the dispute.

Keller who originally called Arianna Huffington the queen of aggregation who discovered that combining celebrity gossip, adorable kitten videos and posts from unpaid bloggers and parlayed that into a successful website backtracked by saying that he loved aggregation.

I love aggregation. Aggregating, as I wrote, is what editors do. It is, to repeat myself, “plugging one another into the bounty of the information universe.” Readers come to The Times not just for our original reporting, but for our best judgment of what else is worth reading or watching out there, and for the comments posted by all of you. As I write, our Lede blog has been linking our readers to a profusion of information about nuclear accidents, earthquakes and tsunamis. But:

A. Aggregating the work of others is no substitute for boots-on-the-ground journalism.

B. There’s often a thin line between aggregation and theft. Sending readers to savor the work of others at the sites where they publish — that’s one thing. Excerpting or paraphrasing at length, so the original sources doesn’t get the traffic or the revenue, that’s something else.

Also, for the record, I like Arianna Huffington. Sorry to disappoint those folks yearning for a Wrestlemania smackdown, but I think she’s a shrewd entrepreneur and a charming woman. Also, we seem to share a belief in hiring professional journalists; she’s hired some good ones from The Times. (We won’t dwell on the fact that her new owners at AOL laid off 200 journalists to help pay for the acquisition of The Huffington Post.) So, really, I like Arianna.

I liked her even better when she had a sense of humor.

But this mea culpa of sorts wasn’t enough for HuffPo which hit Keller with one more post about those adorable kittens.

Good evening, oxpeckers. We stand accused of an over-reliance on “adorable kitten videos,” I hear. From today’s New York Times “Well” blog:

Aye, verily, we stand on the shoulders of giants. That’s a phrase I’ve aggregated from Sir Isaac Newton, who had aggregated it from Bernard de Chartres. (I aggregated this observation from Kirby Ferguson’s “Everything Is A Remix.”)

Maybe Keller is a dog person.

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