City Desk

Is The Post Failing Its Aggregators?

Washington Post Offers More BuyoutsBoing Boing makes a really smart point about Elizabeth Flock—the Post blogger who resigned after making some pretty big flubs—and the nature of her work:

It isn't about talent cultivation and it isn't really about honoring standards. The problem is that the Washington Post wants to have the cake and eat it too. It is content-farming mountains of coverage with overworked bloggers, but is too prideful to let them bang it out using appropriately short blog-post formats.

The paragraphs in question should have simply been block-quoted with a link. This would have been less work than write-through plagiarism. But the pressure is to produce items with the superficial appearance of meatier, reported news stories. So that's what they get.

I don't think that the Post "failed" Flock, as ombudsman Patrick Pexton says. Rather, it seems as if she wasn't very good at the job she was hired for. Aggregation isn't pretty business and it isn't for everyone. And there's a distinction to be made between reported blog posts and aggregated blog posts.

I agree with Boing Boing's Rob Beschizza here: Rewriting other people's words is difficult (and often disrespectful of their work). It's why the block quote is such a good tool for the aggregating blogger.

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  • Richard

    Well, even if the perspective here about the advantages of using short block quotes and a link are correct -- and this certainly makes sense to me -- WaPo still failed flock, since she was pursuing the digested/regurgitated form of blog reporting she had been assigned to do by her editors. She may not have been "very good" at her job -- making a couple of egregious errors over her time at the Post, let's assume, inadvertently. But could she learn and improve through errors, criticism, tolerance, and persistence? Isn't that how most of us mastered job-related skills? Instead, she was s***-canned after two errors (or resigned in frustration given that she didn't foresee future perfection, as Paxton explained). Most design engineers make thousands of errors before getting it right. Why are we imposing false standards on someone who was committed to working hard, asked to follow what Boing Boing argues persuasively was a flawed model, and screwed up twice?

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