Blogging As Typing, Not Journalism
As the election campaign unfolded, operators of some of the internetÃ¢€™s politics-oriented blogs, no doubt high on the perfume of many “hits” and their own developing sense of community, envisioned a future when they would diminish then replace the traditional media as the nationÃ¢€™s primary source of political news and commentary. One of the more self-important of these blog-ops, Andrew Sullivan, declared in a newspaper article in September that the internet upstarts had become, along with cable-TV, the new “powerbrokers in American politics and culture,” primed to unseat “old media.” In another piece he compared the new and old thusly: “Critics of blogs cite their lack of professionalism. Piffle. The dirty little secret of journalism is that it really isnÃ¢€™t a profession, itÃ¢€™s a craft. All you need is a telephone and a conscience and youÃ¢€™re all set.” That hubris was rampant through much of blogland as election night rolled round.
I would point out that Sullivan, in addition to being a premier blogger, is also a professional journalist–formerly editor of The New Republic, one of the most prestigious print journals.
From early afternoon to very late in the evening, those who checked in with the leading political blogs like Drudge, Wonkette, Andrew Sullivan, evote, mydd.com, Daily Kos, and others were given the distinct impression that John Kerry would win the election. The website Slate.com, well-funded and generally a responsible voice, joined in the folly. The bloggers, obtaining through leaks partial, in some cases suspect snippets of information from the early “cut” of data gathered by MSM through exit polls, were spreading a story that the network and wire service bosses knew to be incorrect because their own experts Ã¢€” and their journalistic experience — had warned them of the weaknesses in such data.
You did not see any of the networks or the AP put out misleading reports of a Kerry lead nationally Ã¢€” or in the battleground states of Florida or Ohio. The editors, producers and executives who run these MSM organizations, in typical responsible, dinosaur fashion, know it would be wrong to do so.
This is sheer nonsense. The professional journalists on television were both not putting out the numbers that they had in their possession and asking questions and sending forth not-so-subtle indicators of what the exit polls showed them. Meanwhile, many of us out here in “blogland” both put out the numbers and cautioned against getting too carried away by them. Treating information honestly is, in my judgment, the better approach.
Furthermore, I’ll gladly stack the political knowledge of the blogosphere up against that of the mainstream media any day. Once one gets beyond the top 25-30 political reporters in the country, the font of actual knowledge gets pretty thin indeed. Most reporters simply parrot what they’ve heard other reporters say or paraphrase the press releases of the campaigns, especially the Democratic Party’s version of events. They lack the specialized knowledge to go beyond that. Meanwhile, most of the political bloggers that have any audience to speak of (and a goodly number of those who don’t) have graduate degrees in politics or the law and are much more widely read on public policy than the average journalistic talking head one sees on the tube. Indeed, the self-important Sullivan is not only a highly successful blogger and print journalist, he has a Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University. My guess is he knows something about exit polls.
Oh — this just in — Engberg’s former employer has quite a bit of egg on its face.
Sweating Bush II at CBS (Broadcasting & Cable)
Players involved in the notorious 60 Minutes II story, reported by Dan Rather, which employed dubious documents regarding President BushÃ¢€™s National Guard service, may have been rooting for a John Kerry victory. No, it wasnÃ¢€™t that old bugaboo liberal media bias as much as it was a bias toward saving their own skins. The report from an internal investigation into the documents mess was purposely being held until after the election.
Pre-election, the feeling in some quarters at CBS was that if Kerry triumphed, fallout from the investigation would be relatively minimal. The controversial pieceÃ¢€™s producer, Mary Mapes, would likely be suspended or fired, but a long list of others up the chain of commandÃ¢€”from 60 Minutes II executive producer Josh Howard, to Rather and all the way up to news division President Andrew HeywardÃ¢€”would escape more or less unscathed. But now, faced with four more years of President Bush, executives at CBS parent Viacom could take a harder line on the executives involved.
Just think how messy it’d be if they weren’t so professional?