Monday, September 13, 2004

Bloggers Getting Their Due

While at first the mainstream media didn't give credit to bloggers for the perfect storm of memo discrediting information they pumped out (citing instead, passively, "doubts were raised"), they are now running to embrace the alt.medium - much as they did during the DNC with everyone and his mainstream brother opening a "blog" for additional coverage. Some mainstreamers are more appreciative than others - but they're taking note.

To wit:
TCS: Tech Central Station - Blogs v. 60 Minutes;

New York Times's Safire with "Those Discredited Memos";

And, even guest Phoblogger Jim Pinkerton.

The Tech Central article is a nice gathering of some of the named blogs first to the scene - and in fact, one of the nice things about blogs themselves is that the are a realtime record of unfolding stories - permanent marks - the authors thoughts at each turn laid bare for analysis - frequently making for a compelling narrative. What otherwise might have taken place around a water cooler or through a series of phone calls is instead digitized, broadcast, and etched in as much permanence as the 'sphere can muster.

I believe one interesting and not yet noted, however, that I'll be watching, takes us back in a more substantive direction on the blogger angle - yet still in a procedural way, I guess (dizzy yet?).

Blogs of the "citizen journalist" variety can lean many ways: liberal, conservative, the outer fringes of both parties or no parties. I'd argue a majority of bloggers, regardless of their reported bias, seek truth above all else. The anti- and pro-Bush bloggers latch onto what they see as unjust, untrue stories and seek to bash the hell out of them. They are reactionary - though, in this case, we can see how they quickly moved from being pushed by the news cycle to pushing a cycle of their own.

In this case, it was conservative blogs witnessing something damaging to their team. Even liberal bloggers, however, support the truth - though we may try to redirect to other topics (ie: I would've LOVED those memos to be legit - but since they probably aren't, I'm happy to continue to point out Bush's spoiled rich-kid-edness lives on).

Mainstream media and those unfamiliar with the blogosphere tend to think of it as wacky, probably progressive (in the Dem or liberal sense, not a classical way), Michael Moore controlled landscape of Bush bashers and lovers of liberal media bias.

So who makes headlines that might help blogs jump from pet rocks to legitimate change agents? The conservative blogs. This probably simultaneously stregnthens notions of liberal media bias and throws a curveball at 'net mockers. Never saw that one coming did you, guys?

We'll be tracking this story - obviously - if for no other reason than second only to the promotion of truth, most blogs seek to promote . . . . themselves, duh.

Update: Sometimes I post before whatever I've read prompting me to post has sufficiently sunk in.

The Tech Central piece closes with a series of questions on how CBS could muck up so badly. Then says:

The more basic question is how could a rabble of bloggers, in one day, provide hard core proof of forgery when major news organizations took those documents at face value? Most fundamental of all, why did the New York Times, the Boston Globe and CBS allow themselves to be used for such a transparent attempt to slander President Bush? Out in the blogosphere there are a swarm of people rooting for the answers.
A rabble of bloggers? From what I know, Power Line is a couple a lawyers (now, okay, I think most lawyers are rabble, but you're missing my point). Lots of blogs are professional journalists or professional whatevers outlets for craft-related discussions. These aren't 3d graders with class projects or uneducated slobs trying hard to spell correctly. They could do it because, like NYT readers or WSJ readers or other learned, civic-minded folks they were on their toes and asked questions outloud at a time when technology allows for quick and expert answers. I remember being told several times during high school and college when pondering a career in journalism that a degree in journalism was seldom as valuable as practical experience in a subject area or profession. And of course, as blogs show, that's true - you don't need a recognized byline to qualify you to find truth and get it out there for the consideration of others. Clearly, you don't even need a paycheck to do this (though, readers, if anyone out there wants to pay me, I'll take it, I'm not stupid). Were I the mainstream media, yeah, I'd be concerned - when you aren't doing your job well, others step in to do it. I'm sure they've been trying for years. Now, however, the nice folks at Blogger and Movable Type have just made it SO easy.

I'll leave aside the partisan implications of the second "slander" question, but on the first "basic" question, the answers are clear: this is what smart people do when they can talk freely, easily, and immediately. It's the ultimate free market of ideas - a barter system even - you lend your expertise here, I'll help you there.

Some bloggers are techno-geeks who'd notice type discrepencies. But in this case, I think the tech-angle is second to the partisan angle. They knew the politics of what was happening and needed the technical support to prove their point. That's what they did. It was swift. It was brilliant. It was technologically and politically savvy. And it was potentially a watershed moment for the New Media.

Ideas want to be free. Truth wants to be free. Blogs are free. That the 3 have come together - well, that was just a matter of time . . .

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