Sunday, September 19, 2004

LA Times on the bloggers

Ben Wasserstein writes about blogs vs. mainstream media in the LA Times. I expected him to sniff at the bloggers in pajamas, but instead he makes some useful observations about what the mainstream media and the blogosphere can bring to the process of public information.
For a number of reasons, the CBS memos were the blogosphere's perfect target: If any news story was going to be broken by bloggers, it was this. As with the Lott affair, "breaking" this story meant pointing attention to something that aired on television. (Lott's comments were broadcast on C-SPAN.) It was commentary on a news story, not a news story of its own. Leaving the house or making phone calls was not part of getting the scoop.

He is exactly right. What the bloggers do, mostly, is fact-checking and commentary. Bloggers' original reporting, the first draft of history, tends to be ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances--soldiers and civilians in war zones, for example. Otherwise, it's the people with the press passes and the contacts and, frankly, the full-time salary, to dig up the important news for the bloggers to fact-check and comment on. It takes Claudia Rosette to break the Oil for Food scandal; bloggers compile the information in a site for easy reference after the newspapers have lined the bird cage.

At best it can be a partnership. If it has to be adversarial, it may be. The face of the media will change, because pompous, self-aggrandizing bullies like Dan Rather will be untoothed. Real reporters will find the bloggers to be their allies and not their enemies.

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