Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Rocketboom: An interesting experiment raises questions

There's a very interesting discussion going on at videoblogging site Rocketboom. The exchange was engendered by a May 20 special report posted on the site about an alleged incident of police brutality. (Warning: the page launches right into the report, so turn down your speakers first.) The comments vacillate wildly between 'excellent stuff' and 'disappointing'. IMHO, the debate comes down to Rocketboom's intention - are they producing entertainment or reporting truth?

An excerpt from my comments:

If the intent, as Quirky suggests, was pure entertainment and the desire to satsify people's desire "to hear tales of victimization. Others' pain." then so be it. That's not a goal I'm personally interested in, but I strongly support the right of anyone to say anything they want for any reason (I even have my doubts about the whole crying fire in a crowded theater thing.)

However, if the intent was to present these people's story as truth, then I think the report falls significantly short. I am skeptical by nature; I'm sorry to admit I do not take people at their word. People have to earn my trust, as I expect to earn theirs. That goes doubly when the matter is as serious as this one.

So my question to Amanda and the producers of Rocketboom is, if you were intending to present this report as truth, what evidence do you have other than these people's word that it is so?

UPDATE: Another thought, prompted by this article about investigative blogging from Steve Outing - if Rocketboom was trying to present the truth and/or trying to help this family, it would have behooved them to provide more identifying information so that viewers could follow up on the story for themselves. To anticipate one objection, if the family is telling the truth and are willing to go on camera, they shouldn't be concerned about providing their full names for the record.

Sidenote: it's amazing how much blogging I can do when I can't sleep! :)