Most of us in the tech world know this feeling: you see an article about something you are specialized in and you discover a lot of things which is wrong with it. In the better case these are just details which are wrong. In the worse case the entire conclusion might be wrong. The further away we get from the source, the more likely it gets that the information is partially or entirely wrong.
(There is also an other problem – information is very delayed – for example this posting on Security Focus came out days after the event and it doesn’t even contain the latest situation – that ICANN responded that they are upholding the suspension – this isn’t that big a problem if you are aware of it and factor it in your decisions – for example when an attack is talked about in mainstream media it probably has been going on for weeks if not for months.)
Given this situation it is safe to assume that the quality of reporting in other domains isn’t considerably better. This makes me ask the question: do we really need journalism if the quality of the reporting is so low? If what they can provide is only very thin information?
My opinion, surprisingly, is yes. But there are two other things we also need: a healthy dose of cynicism with the regards to the reporting. The second thing is transparency: make it clear who your sources are. Show me who you are basing your information on. This much easier in the hyperlinked environment of the Web than it is in traditional media, which is an other reason why the Web is a much better place for news gathering, provided you can get out of the “I’ve seen it written with black on white, so it must be true” mentality.