Swarms, Stribs, and Coffee BreaksHere is the latest Star Tribune story on blogs
. Not a bad story, except for the continued lack of insight and self-awareness. Is there a danger that the public will only choose the blogs with which they agree? Sure. Can blogs unfairly swarm someone? Of course. But the mainstream media (MSM) can be guilty of the same things.
If weblogs and the Internet expand the range of opinion available, then it is more likely that people will encounter information that challenges their worldview. Opinion is not a new feature of the medium, just the lessening of the potential for an opinion monopoly.
It is one thing to ask that a reporter be reassigned to a different beat during an election. It is quite another to interfere with a civilian journalist's day job in retaliation for something he writes on his blog. That is what happened when both the Nick Coleman
and the City Pages
went after Scott "Big Trunk" Johnson's
employer (which is my employer, too). They took a look at the time stamp on posts and decided that he was blogging during work hours. This, they rationalized, justified their attacks on his day job. At the time of the controversy (coffee break-gate?), I asked Scott where and when the City Pages reporter called him. He replied that he got the call at work, at around 5pm. So to prove that Scott was engaging in politics when he should have been working, the reporter calls him AT THE OFFICE. It is true that waiting until typical quitting time is better than calling during the day, but the fact that he was still at the office sort of undercuts the whole slacker accusation.
The attempted swarm by the MSM against Powerline does not compare to the successful swarm against Dan Cohen. The excellent book
by Elliot Rothenberg on this landmark U.S. Supreme Court case describes the Captain Ahab-like pursuit of Cohen by Star Tribune columnist Doug Grow
. Cohen's crime was to reveal public arrest records about a state-wide candidate in the 1982 election in Minnesota. Ah, the quaint old days before the Smoking Gun
. His other crime was relying on a promise of confidentiality from both the Strib and the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Abandoned by the Republican party and fired from his advertising job, Cohen finally landed on his feet at the University of Minnesota. Once Doug Grow found out, the Strib turned up the heat and Cohen was forced out of his new job. So much for the MSM being the bulwark against unfair "swarms."
Although President Bush doesn't need me to defend him, the "fake, but true"
National Guard story is also an example of an unfair swarm. I am often guilty of writing about something a day or two after it is in the news (better late than never). But 60 Minutes II takes the cake for writing about a story almost four years into his presidency, concerning events 30 years ago.
In the incidents mentioned above, and many others (including this post), the blogosphere is the cure for unfair swarming and groupthink.