Luke Hellier over at Minnesota Democrats Exposed raised an interesting question recently on the Minnesota GOP’s clearly biased, often inaccurate, and sometimes just downright wrong, blog. He said:
Does anyone actually believe the Uptake is objective?
The thing that makes this question interesting to me is that it was posed by such a non-credible source. But before getting into that, well, is the Uptake objective?
And before getting into that, let me disclose the obvious: I do a weekly radio segment on The Uptake’s radio show on AM950. Tune in on Mondays at 5:50pm to hear a 10 minute take on something I wrote about on The Deets during the past week. I also know quite a few people who are either currently or previously involved with The Uptake. I have a lot of respect for them because they’re good people who care a lot about shining more light on government processes.
Now, are they objective? There is no question in my mind that the average person involved with The Uptake today likely leans to the left politically. However, it’s not entirely clear to me if that’s causation or correlation at work. As I understand The Uptake’s mission, it’s to train people who are interested in being citizen journalists on how to use cutting edge reporting technology to allow them to efficiently tell stories with little to no overhead. Perhaps people who are drawn to such a mission lean to the left? I don’t know.
But when I look at the events The Uptake has covered, it’s pretty clear that they’ll show up to cover events on every shade of the political spectrum.
What makes this questioning the objectivity of The Uptake so interesting to me is that The Uptake often provides unedited video coverage of events they’ve attended. In many cases, it’s actually presented live. The best example of this was the ongoing coverage of the Franken Coleman senate race recount where The Uptake provided a real-time video stream of the recount process.
I don’t see how unedited footage of political events can be considered anything other than objective. Sure, people may have different opinions about what the action being streamed to the web means, but what The Uptake is providing in cases like this is a level of access to government that few to no other media sources have proven willing to do.
If you’re providing unedited coverage of political events, you’re not providing biased journalism. Unedited coverage of political events is an unbiased as journalism gets.
This quote from the editor of the Rochester Post-Bulletin, Mike Dougherty, on Politics in Minnesota makes me wonder if Dougherty’s concern is in being scooped by a news organization that’s willing to report stories faster than his own, by using modern communication tools like live video streaming and Twitter:
Including The Uptake in this area with access to information about what many of the news organizations are working on with no guarantee someone else’s work won’t appear on their site or be Tweeted via Twitter … the media we represent are very different than The Uptake and we hope you will address our concerns by not allowing them to lease space in our current office or within the current press corps complex.
If this is really a case of traditional journalists trying to protect themselves against news organizations who have a habit of reporting things quickly, I don’t see a need to protect them. If more than one organization covers the same event at the capitol, it’s hard to make a case that the event is “someone else’s work”.
How reporting is delivered is changing quickly, and organizations are taking a variety of approaches to change. For example, Reuters’ policy to journalists is to not break stories on Twitter. That type of embargo may be tough to enforce when everyone wants to be first on a story and can do so from their phones in less than 140 keystrokes. The Uptake’s approach seems to be to embrace the opportunities that speed, nearly unlimited bandwidth, and nearly unlimited online storage provide by giving people fast, constant, and in-depth access to stories through a combination of twittering, chat rooms, live streaming video, blog posts, and photos. It’s a different approach than gathering information for a certain number of column inches in tomorrow’s paper or 2 minutes on tonight’s news, but that doesn’t make it bad. In fact, that’s what makes it good.
Check Part II for more info on the difference between Minnesota Democrats Exposed’s comfort with misleading and downright inaccurate reporting, and what I believe to be one of the biggest anti-TheUptake talking points these days.