Friday, November 26, 2004

Imperious Hubris
Dave Ross, doesn't much like bloggers.
The thing about the critics is this: most of them sit at a desk pounding out their blogs, and the closest they ever get to an actual news story is when they pass a traffic accident.

They're critics of the media, but they're also creatures of it. Everything they know they know second hand. They learn it from people who actually go out and get stories. People like... well, Dan Rather.

There is some truth in these above paragraphs. However, what is most clear is the disdain Ross has for us bloggers. I won't deny that I'm a critic who does no real reporting and that I scavenge what I can from the original sources.
But what's wrong with critics? Would Ross ever criticize a movie critic because he never directed or produced a movie and therefore can't rightly criticize one? That's what he's saying here about bloggers.
But of course when it comes to Dan Rather, some bloggers did do original reporting. Powerline became a clearinghouse for those who smelled a rat. Little Green Footballs then was able to recreate the document to a "t" using electronic typesetting. Together they broke a story and backed it up. And they didn't have to leave their houses to do it. Remarkable in my view; but for Dave Ross that's not journalism. There may have been no literal legwork, but they uncovered an inaccuracy that suggested gross negligence if not outright fraud. Given the closeness of the report to the election it's fair to say that it was intended to influence the election.
For too long the MSM has operated with an ethos of "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." Their work is too important and complex to be understood by mere laymen who are not journalists. Even ombudsmen these days seem less concerned with addressing issues of bias than explaining why the newspaper's judgment was correct.
But one need not be a journalist nor a reporter to smell a rat. Or to judge when too much opinion has been injected into what should be a report of facts. Or to note contradictory assertions. All you need are eyes and a functioning brain to do that.
I suppose there are other ways to critique the media.I could write letters and I used to be a pretty regular presence on the letters page of the Baltimore Sun. Still there are limits. For one your response is often edited, and not always satisfactorily. (Once the Sun's wizards changed "predicate" to "predict" making me look foolish. When I called the editor to complain, he didn't seem much bothered with the error.) Secondly, they won't publish you every day. No one limits my blogging. I try to argue logically. If I do, then people will pay attention to me; if not I'll continue sliding down the TTLB ecosystem until I become and amoeba again. In the MSM my fate is always in the hands of others.
Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine has a great post on Dan Rather's retirement that makes this point:
Yes, the exit of Dan Rather, stage left, spotlight off, tail twixt legs, marks the death of the anchor, the extinction of the trusted news star.

But it's more than that. It's the toppling of journalism on a pedestal. It's the end of news as a lecture. It's the death of one-way media.

That is what anchors embodied. And that is what we, the people formerly known as viewers/listeners/readers in the audience, have rejected.

We rejected the old system of trust: If we trusted the person, it was thought, then we trusted what he said. Anchors equaled automatic authority. But no more.

But the bloggers (actually it was very few of them) didn't just catch Dan Rather spreading a false rumor, they also paid attention when Trent Lott suggested that he longed for segregation. Reporters actually covering the event didn't report on the implication of Lott's words. It was Andrew Sullivan and others who couldn't believe what they read and things started snowballing after that until a Majority leader was deposed.
Bloggers aren't going to be perfect. But they provide a useful corrective for the MSM that don't seem to have a sense of their own fallibility. That's what the blogosphere is here for. And if Dave Ross wishes to stand the way of progress that's his perogative. But if he continues to deny that MSM has a crisis of confidence, he will slowly but surely find hismelf to be irrelevant.

No comments: