Thursday, September 18, 2008

Fillin' in the Gaps . . . .

Last week's edition of our local paper The Vancouver Courier had a well-done article by Geoff Olson on the work bloggers have done to reveal facts the MSM - initially, at least - seem to miss:

Bloggers fill in gaps with most interesting facts

War in Georgia illuminates mainstream media's failure to inform

Vancouver Courier - Friday, September 12, 2008


Consider the recent reporting on Russia's conflict with Georgia. From what I could see, North American mainstream media spoke with one voice: the Russian bear had mauled the independent republic of Georgia, threatening stability in the region. There was some mention of the breakaway republic of Southern Ossetia, which Georgia attacked first, but it wasn't really germane to understanding Vladimir Putin's alpha male display.

From the outset, the story from bloggers was considerably different. They pointed to the documentation of strong U.S. and Israeli influence in Georgia prior to the conflict. Just last week, the Washington Post reported what the bloggers had concluded many weeks earlier: both nations weren't just shocked witnesses from afar. So bloggers were on to something big, weeks before one of the respectable bastions of the press smelled something fishy. How could that be? Many bloggers hardly have barely enough cash to fill up their car with gas, let alone fly to Tblisi for a round of interviews.


In this case, a global network of bloggers zeroed in on the consistent stories about the Russia/Georgia debacle that didn't fit the authorized version from North American mainstream media, and brought them to the forefront of the web through a democracy of page clicks. In between the hyperlinks they rambled on about the new chess moves in Central Asia's "Great Game."

The bloggers beat the Washington Post to the punch by many weeks, just as they did prior to the war in Iraq, when they concluded that Saddam's WMD's were as fanciful as unicorns. When the mainstream media finally got around to acknowledging that pre-war whopper, many months after the bombs rained down on Baghdad, they pleaded manipulation by their sources, rather than concede their failure to investigate a story requiring no more resources than a high-speed connection. (Although Knight Ridder reporters Warren Stroebel and Jonathan Landay had done their homework and came to the same conclusion about Saddam's WMDs.)

There are many other examples. Consider last year's spectacular career flameout of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, after being outed for his hooker connections. That was a fascinating, salacious story, but there was an even more interesting angle to Spitzer's outing that received virtually no followup in the press. A month prior to his resignation, he publicly revealed that the Bush administration had dismantled state protections against "predatory lending," which had allowed banks and brokers to go off on their disastrous, subprime mortgage spree. (In his previous job as New York attorney general, Spitzer had led the legal charge to reign in both the lenders and their benefactors in Washington.)


Bloggers fill in the gap more with synthesis than analysis. The digital horses are already out, and it's too late to shut the barn door. The question is, can the newspaper industry effectively subsidize online vehicles from the revenues of their financially troubled print versions? And has the reading audience already been burned too many times by mainstream media's "agreed-upon facts" to care?

With that in mind, is it any wonder a growing number of those people with inquisitive minds are turning to blogs for their "real" news?

Nope . . . .

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