Iíve got a confession to make. Iíve got a big-time crush. Iím talking weak-in-the-knees infatuation. But itís not Brad or Orlando or Colin or any of the cinematic hunks du jour who have set my heart aflutter. No, itís Atrios and Kos and Josh Micah Marshall and Kausfiles and Kevin Drum and Wonkette. Bloggers all. Yes, when it comes to the blogosphere, Iím a regular cyberslut. And I donít care who knows it. Bring on the fines, Michael Powell!
Although Iíve only recently stuck my toe in the fast-moving blogstream, Iíve been a fan ó and an advocate ó ever since bloggers took the Trent Lott/Strom Thurmond story, ran with it, and helped turn the smug Senate majority leader into the penitent former Senate majority leader, a bit of bloody political chum floating in a tank of hungry sharks. Simply put, blogs are the greatest breakthrough in popular journalism since Tom Paine broke onto the scene.
I remember being on a panel around the time of the Lott affair organized by the Hollywood Radio and Television Society. It was filled with a number of familiar talking heads, including Larry King and Sam Donaldson. We were discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly of mainstream journalism. At one point I launched into a rant about all the stories that I felt were important but were not getting covered by the big media outlets.
My fellow panelists, on cue, leapt to the defense of their mainstream brethren, pointing out that many of the stories I mentioned had, in fact, been covered on TV or by the big daily papers.
And indeed they had. Sometimes in 90-second news packages and sometimes even on the front page of The New York Times ó above the fold.
But that, until the rise of the bloggers, was that. Issue noted. Letís all move on. Reporters for the big media outlets are obsessed with novelty, always moving all-too-quickly on to the next big score or the next hot get.
Thatís when it dawned on me: The problem isnít that the stories I care about arenít being covered; itís that they arenít being covered in the obsessive way that breaks through the din of our 500-channel universe. Because those 500 channels donít mean we get 500 times the examination and investigation of worthy news stories. It means we get the same narrow conventional-wisdom wrap-ups repeated 500 times. As in ďDean is angry.Ē
Paradoxically, in these days of instant communication and 24-hour news channels, itís actually easier to miss information we might otherwise pay attention to. Thatís why we need stories to be covered and recovered and re-recovered and covered again ó until they filter up enough to become part of the cultural bloodstream.
The vast majority of mainstream journalists head in the direction the assignment desk points them. This often means just following a candidate around, or sitting in the White House press room, and then rehashing the dayís schedule for their readers or viewers. Bloggers are armed with a far more effective piece of access than a White House press credential: passion.
When bloggers decide that something matters, they chomp down hard and refuse to let go. Theyíre the true pit bulls of reporting. The only way to get them off a story is to cut off their heads (and even then youíll need to pry their jaws open). They almost all work alone, but, ironically, itís their collective effort that makes them so effective. They share their work freely, feed off one anotherís work, argue with each other, and add to the story dialectically.
And because blogs are ongoing and daily, indeed sometimes hourly, bloggers will often start with a small story, or a piece of one ó a contradictory quote, an unearthed document, a detail that doesnít add up ó that the big outlets would deem too minor. But itís only minor until, well, itís not. Big media canít see the forest for the trees. Until itís assembled for them by the bloggers.
I also love the open nature of the form ó the links, the research made visible, the democratic back and forth, the open archives, the big professorial messiness of it all. It reminds me of my schoolgirl days when providing the right answer wasnít enough for our teachers ó they demanded that we ďshow our work.Ē Bloggers definitely show their work. Itís why you donít just read blogs ó you experience them.
All of which has made the blogosphere such a vital news source in our country ó and has made me besotted with blogs. Itís a crush that Iím betting will quickly progress to going steady.
I only have one question: Does the blogosphere have an ID bracelet? I sure hope so.
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