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The True Crime Weblog in the Chicago Tribune

A few days ago I spoke with Chicago Tribune Internet Critic Steve Johnson about web sleuthing, specifically as it related to Steven Kazmierczak, the young man who killed several people on the campus of Northern Illinois University before committing suicide on February 14.

Click the following link to read Steve Johnson’s article:

Web sleuths track killer online.

One thing I said when I spoke with Steve bears repeating:

Although much of the Web sleuthing that goes on is very good, Huff raises an important point.

“For a magazine like I write for now, we’ve got fact checkers,” he said. “As annoying as the fact checking is, it’s saving your butt. Bloggers don’t have fact checkers.”

And another characteristic of the Web is that once bad information is out there, it, too, tends to stay out there, believed by at least some proportion of the people who miss subsequent attempts to correct it…

If you aren’t prepared to be wrong, to screw it up every now and then, you probably shouldn’t publish your sleuthing online — at least not under your own name. I still do it because I’ve learned how to get it right, 98% of the time. I have my screw-ups when it comes to blogging here, but they are usually minor and rare. And at Radar, I’m not the only one vetting my work.

I’m just saying that if you think this is interesting, you’re right. But be aware that it is rarely as simple as churning up interesting stuff on Google and posting that willy-nilly. Learn to be your own fact-checker, as best you can. I’ve built connections with other bloggers and some folks who are just plain old web sleuths, and we tend to keep each other in check, but I didn’t have that when I began — so the fact that I had a lot of good info to post about various stories when I began publishing a true crime blog was in part pure, dumb luck. I’d also made my worst boo-boos (linking a blog that was simply written by someone sharing a name with an accused killer, for example) before more than 80 people a day read my blog.

Steve Johnson also interviewed author Loren Coleman for the article. Coleman’s take on the piece and the subject at hand can be read here: “Websleuths & NIU.