Friday, August 20, 2004

Blog Power!

How can you tell a story is hot in the mainstream press? Easy. It leads the broadcast news, the cable news comment shows devote shows to it, and you get above the fold coverage in the major papers.

How can you tell a story is hot in the blogosphere? Well I’m finding one way. You start to write some insight or comment about the story and repeatedly discover other bloggers beating you to the punch with the exact same points before you publish.

I’m not saying it’s like one or two guys who write faster and think like me. I’m saying I’ve learned to check Instapundit, Roger L. Simon, Hugh Hewitt, Captain’s Quarters, and Powerline - because in addition to their own comments, in their posts I’m linked to about 20 or 30 other blogs writing about the same thing - before I publish a darn thing on the topic of the Kerry / Swiftboat Veteran kerfuffle.

Three of four times already I have spent a decent amount of time working out something I thought pithy and insightful on the topic, only to discover that indeed it was. And Instapundit (or others) linked to some other guy saying it within the last hour or two. Doh!

This is one freakin’ hot story blogospherically (I probably can’t even claim to be the first to use that word, but I’m pretty sure it hasn’t made it into the Oxford English Dictionary quite yet).

I’m already on record saying I think some of the heat behind it is misdirected. Not because it’s wrong. But because it’s spending so much time trying to shame the old media into picking the story up, rather than accepting that this is no longer their role. They’re the partisan left-wing voice. We’re the partisan right-wing voice. And that’s not the scandal breaking here. It’s the reality we stumbled into sometime previously but didn’t realize until now.

I’m not seeing anything which would make me want to drop this opinion. But I am seeing things leading me to realize why this new reality is such a freak-out moment to the blog-world.

Let’s take Captain Ed at Captain’s Quarters for example. I was already aware of the Northern Alliance of blogs via the Bleat before the Captain joined it. We’re talking about what? Less than 2 years ago? And what was Ed doing before then? I dunno. Fishing guide or something. The point is he was certainly not deciding which stories were the important ones of the day for the rest of the nation. That was the job of Peter Jennings at ABC, Howell Raines at the New York Times and the like.

And within a staggeringly brief period of time, the Captain is breaking stories being picked up by other publications across the nation. If he’s not quite Peter Jennings, he’s in the same general category now. And I don’t think Ed or any other blogger expected either the speed or the power of that transition.

The freak out is a result. Guys like Ed are commendable, because they’re neither getting full of themselves, nor are they backing away in intimidation. They just keep plugging away doing what they’ve been doing.

But it’s becoming a fixture to see great bloggers like this spend a great deal of time strategizing about how to get the old media running with the story; the endless longing for the “real reporters” to step in and take the responsibility for this kind of thing back.

Word to the wise: it’s not going to happen. We’re past that now. Drop the story if you must, but don’t expect to be bailed out by ABCNBCCSCCNNMSNBC or the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. They’ve got their own agenda, and it ain’t objective reporting.

By all means keep the pressure on them. That’s definitely an essential element in the new media situation, as news consumers puzzle over which side to believe. Showing how the others guys lack objectivity and credibility is part of the new scene. They’ll do it right back too. It’s expected.

But I wonder when we’ll hit the part where Instapundit, and Hugh Hewitt, and Captain Ed, and all the rest realize that they don’t need to convince Peter Jennings or the New York Times because they themselves ARE Peter Jennings and the New York Times to half the country.

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