Friday, February 11, 2005

Blogs beat MSM to big story again

More on the Eason Jordan story...or, in the case of the MSM, lack of story.

Hugh Hewitt, author of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That is Changing Your World, has a great column (no doubt in a way to plug his book) that illustrates once again how the mainstream media (MSM) is getting beat to the punch again by the blogosphere. Specifically, the Eason Jordan controversy (prior blog entry about it, right here).
On Monday, I was part of a panel put together by Campaigns & Elections Magazine on blogging's impact on campaigns. The panel before us had been moderated by CNN's Judy Woodruff. One of my co-panelists, Jon Lauck of South Dakota Politics, asked Woodruff in the hallway outside of the meeting room what she thought of the story. "When I talked with Woodruff, she did seem simply stunned that Jordan could have said something like he did." Her reaction is similar to most of the reactions of those present at Davos, but again, the striking thing is she hadn't heard of the story. Of course, Woodruff works for CNN.

I hadn't considered the possibility that big names in journalism simply wouldn't be reading the blogs. For one thing, the blogs are interesting--whether left, right, or center. More to the point, they are news engines, carrying advance word of brewing stories. By Wednesday, February 9, Eason Jordan's slander on the military was the subject of a Fox News Roundtable on Special Report with Brit Hume, and had birthed its own blog, Easongate. Anyone admitting to not being up on the story by the following Monday was admitting to a lassitude about the news that calls into question both their work habits and news judgment.

Because of a big stonewall from the Davos bureaucrats, the videotape of the Jordan remarks has not been released. To a certain extent it doesn't matter, as Jordan has already been branded a nut because of remarks he made to a different gathering of media types in the fall of 2004. As quoted in The Guardian on November 19, he remarked: "Actions speak louder than words. The reality is that at least 10 journalists have been killed by the U.S. military, and according to reports I believe to be true journalists have been arrested and tortured by U.S. forces."

What does matter is whether mainstream media "journalists" continue to wall themselves off from the new media information flows. Increasingly, the blogs are ahead of the old news cycle, and not just because they aren't slaves to ideological bias. They are simply more nimble, and more quick to the market with interesting facts.

Eason Jordan's verbal pratfall resembles nothing so much as Senator Trent Lott's fall from his majority leader job in December of 2002. The blogs kept those remarks alive long enough for the mainstream media to take note, and they will in this instance as well. How hard will the mainstream media have to get slapped by its own ineptitude before it even notices it is getting slapped? It has been two years since the Lott controversy, and Rathergate and other blog-driven stories have transpired in the interim. What's it going to take to wake up the Rip van Winkles inside the Beltway?
Emphasis mine. So there are three and only three possibilities for the MSM missing the stories that the blogosphere doesn't miss: bias, ineptitude, or some combination thereof. I mean, Judy Woodruff of CNN didn't know that one of her own network's top dogs said these things? Come on!