24 July 2008

Watching the Watchdogs

Seems CBS has some egg on its face thanks to the blogosphere once again - but this time it's the liberal political blogs on the attack. And this one will not go away. CBS messed up and the best thing they can do now is acknowledge the mistake, apologize, and not do it again.

This is only the latest example of how blogs from the left are holding the traditional (no, we shouldn't call them "mainstream" anymore says Markos) media's feet to the fire. Before the blogs were calling out Katie Couric - someone who is by no means recognized as a conservative - they were focused on Andrea Mitchell's latest comments. One of the most common questions asked on Professor (and former Clinton Administration official) Brad DeLong's blog is "why oh why can't we have a better press corps?"

To be honest, this is what I value most from the political blogosphere. I really don't rely on bloggers for political opinion - I worked on Capitol Hill long enough to have my own opinions and ideas about politics and policy. (Wow, did THAT sound snobby.) But I need facts on which to base those opinions, and I rely on journalists to report on those facts. That's a hard job - and the simple truth is nobody is perfect and nobody is free from their own bias. I like that the fact-checkers now have fact-checkers. And frankly, at least the blogger is up-front about his or her own political bias.

It's funny - I often get the impression that journalists don't like being held to the scrutiny to which they subject their subjects. Many journalists have long sought to minimize the role of bloggers in this regard - I've already written about corporate media's five stages of grief - but there's at least a handful of good journalists who think that journalism has to adapt to the new age of accountability that social media has helped deliver.

We hear the term "citizen journalism" quite often, but I don't think this is what political bloggers do. They're generally consumers and not producers of journalism. It's just that today's consumer is more educated and discerning, and has the ability to talk back.

You know, "It's Not a Lecture."

(You want some blogs that look at journalism, go here. )


Brad said...

You're right -- the political bloggers I read the most are the ones that act as the best "filters" for me. They consume news, and post what they react to the most and what resonates with them. And I read the bloggers that do this the best for my own interests.

I also agree that political bloggers aren't in it to be journalists -- they want to build communities that they're leaders of. That's why I've always viewed them as opinion leaders.

Granted, there are a few exceptions -- take Marc Ambinder, for instance, who is a blogger/journalist, but I think they're the exception to the rule.

Christopher Scott Rice said...

I would have to respectfully disagree about Ms. Couric's identity as a conservative. While she doesn't fall into the Laura Ingraham/Michelle Marlkin/Ann Coulter mold of easily recognizable, shrill conservative, her rightward bias was subtle but apparent for years on the Today Show, and was more readily apparent from the beginnings of her CBS program. I suspect this latest bit of "creative editing" will be the final nail in Ms. Couric's CBS coffin, especially when juxtaposed against her lambasting of Dan Rather for similar sins at the beginning of her tenure.

But as to the larger point of your article, I think you're mostly right. When I teach about political blogging as opposed to traditional media in my Intro to American Government class, this is the point I try to make: if traditional media is the watchdog of the government-class, then bloggers serve as the watchdogs of not only the government-class but the journalist-class as well. And it's an increasingly valuable function.

Of course, as Brad mentions above, some such as Ambinder are exceptions to the rule, performing dual roles as opinion leader and journalist. You'd also have to add Josh's Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post to that list as well. Blogging evolves just as journalism does.

Thanks for such a thought-provoking article first thing in the morning!

David said...

Thanks Brad and Christopher.

Interesting thoughts from Christopher re: Couric's reputation. I've seen her attacked from the right at places like fox news, mediaresearch.org or newsbusters, and now I'm seeing more criticism from the left. My guess is she'd say that's proof she's cutting it down the middle. ;) Sometimes ideology is in the eye of the beholder and I'm sure you can make a persuasive case.

but yeah, another added advantage is the blogosphere serves as a check on itself - the left fact-checks the right and vice versa. There isn't the environment you see in the corporate-driven media where journalists know the network they criticize today could be giving them a paycheck tomorrow.