Monday, April 20, 2009

the blogosphere atwitter

Whether or not you like Morrissey , you will find tasty food for thought re the twittersphere in this review, written by Gordie Young for the SF Weekly, of a non-concert by the former member of the Smiths. It's a short piece, but be sure to read down to the last graf. That's where the, er, meaty J questions come in.

Here's the backstory: Apparently, Morrissey blew off a concert at the Paramount in Oakland Saturday claiming illness -- a day after cutting short a concert at Coachella because the odor of cooking meat wafted his way -- but then was seen at the very same time he was supposed to be up on stage across the Bay, watching another show at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco.

None of which is all that interesting if you're not a Morrissey fan ((FTR: I am not. I refer to a friend who once characterized his music thus: "hide the knives -- I'm feeling depressed"). What IS interesting, however, is the source of the reporting -- tweets, blogs, and cell phone pix -- and the questions that arise because of it. WAS Morrissey at the DNA lounge? DID he cut short his concert at Coachella because of burnt meat? Can you trust this reporting? Should reporters report on it? How do you verify it? Is any or all of it true?

If, as Gordie posits, the story illustrates the freakish and somewhat disturbing power of twitter, you have to wonder: why is it that, when reporters' credibility is often on the line, we are so quick to trust Susie from Ohio in 140 characters or fewer?

Gordie responds:
It's all true. There are youtube links showing him walk off the stage and making the meat comments. (There are also press reports covering the Coachella show). Kristeen Young, who was performing at DNA, has commented publicly on Morrissey's presence. And there are photos of Morrissey at DNA from the various Susie's. Now who knows exactly why he canceled the show. It was officially because of "illness."

I thought this was very interesting for the very reason you stated. By journalism standards, this is all strangely sourced. Can you trust a youtube video that says it's of Morrissey at Coachella? On the other hand, can you trust a reporter for the NY Times using unnamed sources, especially if it's Judy Miller? I'm not endorsing either/or, but it is fascinating to see what a confusing time this is for journalists and the concept of the verifiable truth. And a blogger alerting fans via twitter and someone actually responding and going to DNA and confronting Morrissey is very weird.

I also think it would be interesting to speculate on how easy it would be to fake elements of this story. Then again, when newspapers dutifully reprint official statements from presidents that they know aren't true...well...that's fake news as well, right?

Again, not taking sides, but very interesting and confusing issues. Too bad this wasn't about a story that really mattered.


Anonymous said...

don't see how this story is that different from your average news story...i'd even say a youtube video is more conclusive than talking to someone at the event. And how is gathering material from a longstanding music blog dramatically different than calling the blogger on the phone about what happened. In either case, they could still lie or tell the truth just as easily

Anonymous said...

all true, anon. but maybe "your average news story" would do a couple more things: make an attempt to contact the man himself, or at least his publicist, and get another source or two for corroboration.
not saying the reports from the blog and youtube are not true, esp in this case. but in general, there's that nagging question of verification: when is news news and when is it, uh, gossip? bk

Anonymous said...

You would consider Morrissey's publicist to be a form of verification? Or Morrissey himself? In a recent interview Moz claimed he wasn't even a human being, but was made out of papier mache.

Anonymous said...

okay, you win.
tell me again why you like this guy? bk

Liza Sweeney said...

Morrissey has a history of canceling about fifty percent of his scheduled gigs for random reasons, so I don't think the story is too peculiar or out-of-the-blue, given the circumstances. And of all places in San Francisco for Moz to be the DNA Lounge seems a relatively likely one... it's pretty underground, they play a lot of goth and eighties-influenced rock, etc. Logically the story makes sense, as Moz has a reputation of being a bit of a diva, but of course it takes a lot more than logic to confirm the truth.

At the moment I would say this definitely falls into the "gossip" category more than it falls into the "hard news" category since there has been no public confirmation, but hopefully the story will unfold and someone will get the facts from Moz's manager or someone else closely affiliated with him (I highly doubt Moz himself would make a public statement about it). I'm curious!

-- Liza