October 24, 2005

An Interesting Discussion

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Now normally I try to stay away from discussions about how other blogs are reporting what goes on in Bolivia. God knows everyone has the right to state their own oppinion on any issue they like. I like to take advantage of my right in full force. :-) However, there is this discussion developing in the Boli-blogsphere which has attracted my attention. Specially since many people are talking about it.

The object of discussion is accuracy in reporting. Jim Schulz, the author of Blog from Bolivia, has written a post about former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada (Goni). Now, in his post, Jim brings up the tragic death of Ana Colque (a girl who was shot to death in the midst of disturbances back in February 2003 during the Goni administration) to make his point. This article, interestingly, has sparked a series of commentaries (on the same article) from Bolivians who not so much dispute Jim's leftist ideology but the accuracy in his factual reporting regarding Bolivian events. But the commentaries do not stop in the Boli-blogsphere, it extends beyond it.

For instance, A.M. Mora y Leon from Publius Pundit, in this post, calls attention to this out of the ordinary exchange within the article. Also, Miguel Centellas from Ciao! weighs in with an excellent post highlighting inconsistencies in Jim's article.

Now I ask myself, should bloggers seek to be accurate when reporting events of any kind? And right away, without thinking too long, I answer ABSOLUTELY! I think, bloggers have the responsibility to report facts of any kind as accurately as possible. Specially now a days that blogs are becoming the primary source of information for many people whos interests are not satisfied by the MSM.

Accuracy is specially important when covering places like Bolivia for which there is hardly any information available through the media. Every so often I see some kind of factual error when reading reports about Bolivia. Be it in articles by the BBC, Yahoo, NY Times, Washington Post, the Economist, Financial Times. It seems as if people think, Bolivia, who cares if I am thorough, who's going to know anyway. Personally I have contacted the Economist about a factual error. The response I got was the polite equivalent of saying if you don't like the reporting don't read us. More often than none I get just ignored.

But, going back to Jim's article. The sense that I got when I visited Jim on his site was that though he raised very legitimate issues, he took too much liberty on the facts to fit his ideology. Sometimes I found myself wanting to leave an angry comment rectifying some facts reported, which were just plain wrong. But, angry comments do not serve any purpose other than to bring out the silliness in us. Sorry I don't have a list of examples for you but I did not plan to write this post. I just had to say something after reading the other comments and posts.

So people, let's try to be accurate when reporting about Bolivia. Specially when spelling names correctly. Granted Bolivian names can be difficult to spell for some people, we are writing them in the computer where it is very easy to check the spelling and correct them. The computer is also a good tool to read a little bit about Bolivian history. The Boli-blogsphere is a tremendous tool to become an instant Bolivian expert. So there is no reason to mess up on the facts.


Javier said...

I find this really "curious".

There's no reason in Bolivia to "slip" -manipulate, exagerate, etc- your ideas in showing how f***ed up is the country or how idiot or killer were the former presidents.

miguel said...

You're right Javier, it is a curious discussion. I agree there should not be any grounds to distort any FACT about Bolivia. And even more when it is not necessary to see that the country is having "problems" (to put it mildly).

Yet, it is my experience to find over and over again wrong or distorted facts about Bolivia. One would expect the MSM would want to guard its professionalism and be thorough when writing about a country like Bolivia.

I would also expect that blogger like us would make the most errors. Since, after all, most of us are not professional but rather amateurs.

Most of all, people like the guy from the blog from Bolivia have a reputation to establish and thus have all the incentive in the world to be accurate. It is their livelihood they are establishing.

However, it seems to me that the roles are reversing and the MSM is not fullfiling its role. On the other hand, bloggers are filling that void.

No matter how bad your own oppinion about Bolivia is, the facts should stay just that, "the facts". Don't you agree?

Anonymous said...

Would you tell us what fact was not correct when you reported it to The Economist?