I’m not quite sure how I feel about this Gizmodo.com item about exercise and delayed-onset muscle soreness. On the one hand, it conveys quite a lot about DOMS, mostly well-written. I enjoyed reading it, and I learned something.
On the other hand, it’s not really an article in the usual sense—the author, Daniel Kolitz, asked some experts about the subject, and posted their responses on the web site, where they’ll earn money for Gizmodo. I suppose Mr Kolitz edited those responses a bit, individually, but hasn’t pulled out the main ideas, arranged them in a meaningful sequence, and then supported each point by quoting from his sources. Instead, all their contributions are presented separately, with a lot of overlap and redundancy, and implicit disagreements left unexamined. It’s informative, but unformed.
The repetition not necessarily a terrible feature, because it lets you see where there’s a lot of agreement and where experts differ a bit. But surely it’s the job of a writer to do that thinking and editing on the reader’s behalf? This looks like my notes for an article, not a finished article itself. To be clear, I’m not accusing Mr Kolitz of wrong-doing. The Giz Asks format is quite explicit about what’s going on. This isn’t a half-complete article, it’s a different form.
Now, if the alternative were a hasty, semi-competent compilation of the sources’ remarks, full of terminological errors and misunderstandings, topped off with a contrived Positive Take-Away, I should prefer this format any day. At least it’s possible to learn what experts really think, rather than what some scientific ignoramus thought they meant after skimming their responses and looking up some terms on Wikipedia.
But that’s only the alternative in a world of lazy, cheap, irresponsible journalism. In a better world, expert sources would not be expected to contribute their own writing, for free, to a for-profit publication, without so much as a by-line. (Half of those contributors wrote better English, better structured, than the fellow whose name appears under the title, and the remainder wrote just as well as he.) In a publication with decent standards of journalism, the author would have re-worked those responses, taken time to learn about the subject, and asked follow-up questions to address the very obvious questions raised by the experts’ agreements and disagreements. (In a better publication, I might add, someone would have read the title, and pointed out that it’s the specific muscles you worked hard that start hurting after two days, not exercise. But that would have taken ten seconds.)
This quasi-article speaks to our acceptance of low standards, behind which lies the broken state of web economics. In simple justice, either the subject-matter experts should receive the credit and the pay for their contributions, and Gizmodo staff a with by-line only, or the staffer should do the work of turning their contributions into a real article. This quick-and-dirty hybrid? Not acceptable—even if the experts did receive payment (which I doubt) they deserve better than this shabby treatment.