When the topic of weblogs gets covered in the mainstream press, the question of trust often comes up. Inevitably, the comparison is to print and television media. Is the information you get from weblogs as trustworthy as, say, what you read in the NY Times or watch on CNN? Old media’s quick answer is often “no”.
But people gauge the trustworthiness of weblogs just like they do with newspapers, magazines, and television. Based on what’s being said, how it’s said, the accuracy of the information compared to other sources, the blogger’s track record with similar information, and who else trusts that blogger, we can make pretty good decisions as to the general trustworthiness of a blogger and the specific trustworthiness of a particular post. And much of the time — say, when Instapundit or Boing Boing are just linking to and excerpting stories from other online sources — trusting a certain weblog isn’t that much of an issue.
Trust becomes more important when eyewitness reporting is involved. Where is Raed? is the personal weblog of Baghdad resident Salam Pax**…or so he tells us. Other than what he tells us, we have no way of knowing if he’s actually posting live from Baghdad or is running some elaborate hoax from the middle of Kansas (don’t laugh, it’s happened before). The site is hosted on blog*spot and is therefore practically anonymous.
Is Salam posting from Baghdad for real? I don’t know, but if I had to guess, I’d say yes. There’s a good way to find out for certain. Kevin (whom I’m pretty sure is real and blogging from Iraq), if you make it to Baghdad during the course of or after the war, look up Salam and tell us all about it, would you?
** Salam Pax is almost certainly a pen name. “Salam” (or more properly, “Salaam”) and “Pax” mean “peace” in Arabic and Latin respectively.
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