March 17, 2007

LA Times on Blogs

Today's LA Times story about blogging and in particular about the amazing success of Josh Marshall's Talking Point Memo covers the topic fairly well. One point it makes is exactly the one that Jay Rosen made last year at Yearly Kos, that one of the most powerful aspects of the new blogging model of journalism is how the relationship between the blogger and the readers leads more tips and better stories than is possible with the newsroom model for some types of stories. The US Attorney story is just that type of story, because it is a story that knits together the hundreds of stories being reported only in the local news. And all of a sudden, rather than just a small local story, it is a major national story. Part of the reason it works so well for Josh is he's focused on what's happening at the congressional and local levels.

The bloggers used the usual tools of good journalists everywhere determination, insight, ingenuity plus a powerful new force that was not available to reporters until blogging came along: the ability to communicate almost instantaneously with readers via the Internet and to deputize those readers as editorial researchers, in effect multiplying the reporting power by an order of magnitude.

The piece also talks about how different political blogging is from regular political news reporting.

The blogs that have captured the most attention are those that devote themselves mainly to politics and public affairs. These are almost always run by partisans of one side or the other. In that, they are nearly the opposite of the sort of coverage presented in traditional media, whose coverage at least attempts to be neutral on questions of policy.

This neutrality is a favorite target of bloggers who say that mainstream journalism objectivity disguises hidden biases of the form, if not the writer. The bloggers contend that these biases can render neutrality into bland, even neutered reporting that rewards those intent on manipulating it.

Indeed. Or as I was thinking this morning while listening to NPR, the regular media has the tendency to trivialize the news. This morning there were several stories that made a molehill out of a mountain.

How about the report about Valerie Plame's appearance at Waxman's hearing yesterday? It had all kinds of fun facts that the gossip was Valerie was knock-out gorgeous and, by gosh, it was true. And how when she left the room so did most of the reporters because they were only there to see Valerie testify. Did the story even touch on the matter about how she was betrayed by her government to score a political point? Not so much.

Then when talking about the impact of Prosecutor Purgegate, two Republican partisans were invited to talk about how damaging this story was for Bush and Republicans. One of the hacks stated that he didn't even know what the fuss was all about as most Americans could care less about the case because it doesn't touch their lives. If there had been a real discussion on this segment, this lie would not have been allowed to stand. Americans can and will be strongly against a President using the power of the state to persecute innocent Americans just because they don't belong to the party of the President. It is sloppy journalism that allows a Republican hack to trivialize and bury the real impact and danger of this type of lawlessness on the part of the Bush administration over the lives of ordinary Americans.

NPR has a great deal of credibility as a majority of Americans find it their most reliable news source. But under relentless assault of the VRWC, their framing of stories has suffered. They would serve their audience better if they worried less about the appearance of "fairness" and more about giving context to the stories of the day even if it doesn't make the administration happy.

Posted by Mary at March 17, 2007 10:47 AM | Blogging | Technorati links |

After reading that article, I wrote the Pulitzer board to ask them to advance the day that bloggers can gain recognition who put intense effort into research, source cultivation, and presentation with an effort to maintain key ethics standards of traditional media journalists.

The only real arguments they can put up against that are rooted in jealousy or upholding dusty tradition.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden at March 17, 2007 02:23 PM