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You Say Blogger, I Say Journalist, God Says ‘Just Write!’

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This morning I emailed a writer at the Wall Street Journal: an article he’d written, based on an AP release, had some factual errors. And I knew they were errors because I’d recently written an in-depth article about the same subject at BarbWire.com (I am the Executive Editor there) and had all the facts from the subject himself, not the AP.

The author responded immediately, if curtly. He wanted specifics. I could sense cynicism as if he were thinking “Who is this crazed blogger who may or may not be a REAL journalist and editor.”

I replied with specificity and he answered, “I corrected the ____ mistake.” Pretty succinct, as though his email length were precious copy inches in a dino-media paper. So being the cheerful person I am, I shot back one last email.

“Terrific! Thanks!” I added that I would be writing more articles on the subject.

That broke through and the WSJ writer replied, “Thanks for pointing it out. I was thrown off by the AP dateline, but I should have been more careful.”

Boom. That correspondence ended on a cordial note and he now knows my name, where I’m an editor/writer, and that more material will be ensuing.

But the negative feeling persisted: Mainstream media and the big prestigious entities, such as the Wall Street Journal, largely view those of us who write and edit in the cybersphere as less gifted, less knowledgeable and pretty much beneath them.

Never mind that many of us had majors in English and Literature, and had upper level classes in Economics, Poly Sci, and Speech. The assumptions by “The Bigs” outweigh any gifting and education said bloggers may possess.

I mentioned that to my good friend, blogger extraordinaire Jeff Dunetz (of The Lid fame) and he shared this wonderful 2005 Peggy Noonan column with me. While reading I smiled and remembered why, in the past, I loved reading Peggy’s articles.

I hope each of you enjoy it as much as I did.

THE BLOGS MUST BE CRAZY

Or maybe the MSM is just suffering from freedom envy.

By Peggy Noonan

“Salivating morons.” “Scalp hunters.” “Moon howlers.” “Trophy hunters.” “Sons of Sen. McCarthy.” “Rabid.” “Blogswarm.” “These pseudo-journalist lynch mob people.”

This is excellent invective. It must come from bloggers. But wait, it was the mainstream media and their maidservants in the elite journalism reviews, and they were talking about bloggers!

Those MSMers have gone wild, I tell you! The tendentious language, the low insults. It’s the Wild Wild West out there. We may have to consider legislation.

When you hear name-calling like what we’ve been hearing from the elite media this week, you know someone must be doing something right. The hysterical edge makes you wonder if writers for newspapers and magazines and professors in J-schools don’t have a serious case of freedom envy.

The bloggers have that freedom. They have the still pent-up energy of a liberated citizenry, too. The MSM doesn’t. It has lost its old monopoly on information. It is angry.

But MSM criticism of the blogosphere misses the point, or rather points.

Blogging changes how business is done in American journalism. The MSM isn’t over. It just can no longer pose as if it is The Guardian of Established Truth. The MSM is just another player now. A big one, but a player.

The blogosphere isn’t some mindless eruption of wild opinion. That isn’t their power. This is their power:

1. They use the tools of journalists (computer, keyboard, a spirit of inquiry, a willingness to ask the question) and of the Internet (Google, LexisNexis) to look for and find facts that have been overlooked, ignored or hidden. They look for the telling quote, the ignored statistic, the data that have been submerged. What they are looking for is information that is true. When they get it they post it and include it in the debate. This is a public service.

2. Bloggers, unlike reporters at elite newspapers and magazines, are independent operators. They are not, and do not have to be, governed by mainstream thinking. Nor do they have to accept the directives of an editor pushing an ideology or a publisher protecting his friends. Bloggers have the freedom to decide on their own when a story stops being a story. They get to decide when the search for facts is over. They also decide on their own when the search for facts begins. It was a blogger at the World Economic Forum, as we all know, who first reported the Eason Jordan story. It was bloggers, as we all know, who pursued it. Matt Drudge runs a news site and is not a blogger, but what was true of him at his beginning (the Monica Lewinsky story, he decided, is a story) is true of bloggers: It’s a story if they say it is. This is a public service.

3. Bloggers have an institutional advantage in terms of technology and form. They can post immediately. The items they post can be as long or short as they judge to be necessary. Breaking news can be one sentence long: “Malkin gets Barney Frank earwitness report.” In newspapers you have to go to the editor, explain to him why the paper should have another piece on the Eason Jordan affair, spend a day reporting it, only to find that all that’s new today is that reporter Michelle Malkin got an interview with Barney Frank. That’s not enough to merit 10 inches of newspaper space, so the Times doesn’t carry what the blogosphere had 24 hours ago. In the old days a lot of interesting information fell off the editing desk in this way. Now it doesn’t. This is a public service.

4. Bloggers are also selling the smartest take on a story. They’re selling an original insight, a new area of inquiry. Mickey Kaus of Kausfiles has his bright take, Andrew Sullivan had his, InstaPundit has his. They’re all selling their shrewdness, experience, depth. This too is a public service.



 

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