Blog reporting hits mainstream
Tuesday, December 17th, 2002
The blogger role in Trent Lott’s dunking is by now well established.
But while bloggers are often characterized as pseudo-pundits and fifth-column columnists, I’d like to point out that bloggers have done a fair amount of crucial reporting as well.
I bring this up because we often encounter a fair amount of sneering about bloggers and the news. Bloggers only “churn” what traditional press organizations report. Bloggers recycle. Bloggers pontificate. But bloggers aren’t up to reporting.
In arguing that “bloggers can’t/shouldn’t report,” most people thinking of “reporting” as Pulitzer-prize winning journalism mined from the trenches of Afghanistan or months long interogations of Deep Throat. Unfortunately, this accounts for only 1% of journalism.
Most reporting is far more mundane, but no less vital: turning up nuggets of information that have eluded public scrutiny. In Lott’s take-down, bloggers definitely played this role by using past articles and quotations to deconstruct Lott’s lies about his association with the white-supremist Council of Concerned Citizens (Josh Marshall) and digging out a sample ballot from 1948 to show what was really at stake in that election (Atrios.)
As Marshall put it as he unearthed the Amicus Brief which Trent Lott submitted on behalf of Bob Jones University in 1981, “Is TPM your source or is TPM your source?”
Note that this kind reporting is actually a cut above what most reporters spend their days writing — cutting and pasting press releases and putting new spins on other journalist’s work.
Bloggers are forced into reporting by the blindness and laziness of traditional media organizations. As Marshall noted about Lott’s racist instincts: “The truth is that everyone who’s sentient and even remotely keeps up on politics has known about this stuff for years — at least since the last Trent Lott-segregation scandal broke back in late 1998. Sad to say, everyone just agreed not to pay attention, not to care.”