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Library Journal: Clueless in Manhattan

A brief, unsigned news blurb on Library Journal’s website claims to report on the response to Michael Gorman’s article, Revenge of the Blog People. However, LJ’s “news” item has as much authenticity as the government-produced video news releases discussed in today’s New York Times (a piece of reporting so good I read it standing up in the living room, mouth ajar in wonder and respect).

First, Library Journal repeats without examination Gorman’s contention that Gorman’s statements “do not represent the official positions of either ALA or California State University Fresno (where he directs the library).” As specious as this statement is–why else do ALA members elect a president every year, if not to represent them to the outside world?–it is contradicted by no less than Gorman himself, in his Midwinter report to ALA (a Word document easily findable on the ALA website thanks to their recent implementation of the “inefficient” Google Appliance):

“Another, less formal and certainly less time consuming, duty is speaking on behalf of the association to journalists and others associated with the media. I have enjoyed talking to such people about, inter alia, state and nation-wide budget cuts, the future of libraries and the fate of the printed book, Google, the tragic closing of the Salinas, CA, public libraries, the twin evils of censorship and filtering, the use of collection agencies by libraries to collect fines, literacy, and the sad state of school libraries in California. These have resulted in attention to the association in newspapers high and low and on radio stations large and small.”

The state of library journalism is pretty bad when you can fisk news articles with documents lying on your coffee table.

Second, and not surprisingly, the LJ newsblurb focuses exclusively on the SlashDot response to Gorman’s article. Nothing wrong with mentioning SlashDot, but it’s only one specific spot in the world of online news and opinion, and one dominated by a specific type of user. The real news is how broadly Gorman’s comments were discussed within the biblioblogosphere and beyond (yes, full disclosure, by me, among many others), in some cases by highly respected voices. That LJ doesn’t mention this points to bias or cluelessness–take your pick.

Third, LJ reports Gorman’s statement that “The majority of my correspondents believe that I either wish them to desist from blogging and/or have the power to make them stop.” But LJ, which considers itself so much more newsworthy than the average self-published online rag, not only accepts Gorman’s comments verbatim and without examination or discussion (much as Gorman in his “Revenge” article was allowed to quote someone saying “Gorman is an idiot” without substantiating the source), but doesn’t include responses from bloggers who responded to Gorman. Can LJ really find a blogger who believes that Gorman has the power to stop them from blogging? Did LJ try?

Finally, LJ doesn’t explore the difference between Gorman’s initial excuse–hey, folks, lighten up, it’s only satire!–and his latest response.

I expect American Libraries, the house organ, to have a powerful element of astroturf in its treatment of ALA officials. AL simply ignores the whole issue, and I’m not surprised or bothered. What I don’t understand is Library Journal, an independent commercial enterprise, using half-baked “news” items that are in service to the subject of the item, not the actual news itself.

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