Bloggers (unless one is a journalist) typically read and opine on the information released to the world. We’re all getting the same information, generally, and the only unique thing political or social blogs bring to the equation is a venue for discussing what everybody’s already talking about (with a jump-off opinion).
So when we hear that the NSA is compiling the world’s biggest phone call database, and then a few days later the phone companies are suing or demanding retractions from the source that released the story… what does that mean?
Or when a source reports that Iran has passed (or upheld) a law requiring different colored clothes to distinguish Jewish and Christian people from “the faithful”, and the story is pulled the next day and replaced with “maybe it’s not true”…. is there something we should know?
Some from the left are speculating that the Iranian story is part of a propaganda campaign — a deliberate inflammation of emotions in a build-up to war. They are convinced that the neo-cons have already made their war plans and are simply paving the road into Iran and hoping that along the way, the president’s popular support will improve.
Meanwhile, howls of outrage are heard from the right that the USA Today reporter made a campaign contribution to the Democrats, and is therefore not credible — that it’s part of a vast conspiracy to undermine Hayden’s confirmation hearings.
The “new media” relies in large part on traditional sources that have long been known as slanted, but filtering for spin isn’t the same as trying to determine whether stories are created from whole cloth, and then deliberately planted.
Editor and Publisher’s coverage of the NSA story says (my emphasis):
Editors and veteran journalists who spoke with E&P are mixed on how the situation has been handled by all involved, with some claiming that the outcome could impact how news outlets report sensitive intelligence information in the future.
“This is shaping up to be a major test of the value of the press, the watchdog function of the press,” said Bill Kovach, chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists. “If the press turns out to be right, they will have done a real service. If it turns out to be wrong, it will be a real blow to all of us.“
If? What are we doing with an “if” there?
The blogosphere is perfectly capable of jumping off of cliffs all by itself without being pushed, and then followed, by the press.
If the traditional press is concerned by reduced readership and the growing power of the blogosphere in shaping public opinion, perhaps they should stop shooting themselves in their own feet.
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Update (May 22): CBS’ Public Eye blog is also voicing caution about the recent spate of nonsense:
The fact we’re still not sure what exactly to believe about stories like the USA Today database exclusive doesn’t help clear up the picture for news consumers either. In the wake of a series of journalistic scandals – Jason Blair, Memogate, Judy Miller and many others – it’s understandable why, in many quarters, the MSM is seen as no more reliable than many blogs or Web sites. All good reasons to question any story you come across. And all good reasons for news organizations to be more transparent and open with readers — and harder on ourselves — than ever.