Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Swarms, Stribs, and Coffee Breaks

Here 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.


Blogger Sharon said...

If the MSM wants to talk about "swarms", perhaps we should remind them about the swarm of coverage started on Sixty Minutes II on April 28, 2004. That original story about pictures of abuses from one shift at Abu Ghraib prison on November 8, 2003, has led to over ten months of daily mentions by the media and setting the perception of standard treatment of prisoners by the U.S. military. That, I think, is a "swarm".

March 09, 2005 9:48 AM  
Blogger Theo p. said...

"The heart of man is deceitful and wicked above all things who can understand it." Thus does the Good Book give reason to have a multitude of media attacking and defending events and people. Another reason same source "You will know the truth and the truth shall set you free" The citizen journalism of the blogs is a check over the MSM and a source of truth.
When it comes to seeking truth the more the merrier.

March 09, 2005 9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You reminded me of the Strib assault on Sen David Durenburger some years ago. One incredible editorial even went so far as to condemn Durenburger for attempting to defend himself - his "crimes" were apparently so egregious that falling on his sword was the only thing he could do.
Of course, when Dems are caught in flagrante delicto, only nasty bloggish swarmers with their right wing agendas take notice. What incredible balderdash!

March 09, 2005 11:36 AM  
Anonymous jerry lindberg said...

Neidermeyer? - Dead!
MSM? - Dead?

With the (forced, but not reported as such) retirement of Dan R, the blogosphere will have one less target. Let's not lose our perspective - Rather was a symptom, not the disease. The disease is ignorance. The good news is that the MSM has no wind in their sails. They are irrelevant. They haven't learned to compete in the arena of ideas and today's consumer of news has not time for half-stories and agenda journalism. There are too many options which are quicker, more comprehensive and without the jaundice of liberalism. None of us ought to think they won't keep trying. Network management can put a News Reader in front of the prompter but they cannot escape the fact that the younger generation doesn't trust them to do Job One: Tell the story in a 360-degree panorama.

March 09, 2005 1:02 PM  
Blogger Marty said...

Mainstream Media, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

March 09, 2005 4:51 PM  

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