Get ready for the onslaught, new media. After the huge role that bloggers have played in both the Swift Vets story and the CBS/Rather document story, some members of traditional media are scared and they’re ready to strike back.
The current controversy over the validity of documents pushed in large part by bloggers and purporting to prove that President Bush received special treatment in the National Guard shows that partisan Internet pundits are having a growing impact on mainstream press, for better or worse, according to several newspaper editors.
Although editors from four major dailies contend that their product remains the most trusted source of news for most readers, they admit the blogging community is offering competition and provoking even more skepticism of the mainstream media than usual. But they are divided on whether or not this is a positive trend or not.
"It lends itself to a lot of manipulation," said James O'Shea, managing editor of the Chicago Tribune. "You can have information anarchy. You have to look at who these people are. We have to put some scrutiny on the bloggers."That’s right. (sarcasm) The identity and leanings of the bloggers matter more to Mr. O’Shea than whether the truth of any situation is brought to light. Next he'll call for background investigations.
Some pundits, including columnists who write for newspapers, have claimed this week that the blog uprising over the CBS documents signals the end of "old media" dominance. But O'Shea believes "that's a lot of baloney. Wait until people start relying on THEIR information and getting burned."Mr. O’Shea still doesn’t quite get it, why blogging is so popular. Bloggers (including this one) make mistakes all the time, but are instantly accountable for the information they put forward. Anyone can research, use and dispute and assertion put forth on a blog. And anyone who gets “burned” relying solely on information found on blogs isn’t doing enough of his/her own research. As we suspect, that’s what happened to CBS with its vetting of the “Bush” documents, totally without the assistance of bloggers.
"It is an increasing burden," said Dennis Ryerson, editor of The Indianapolis Star, who admits daily papers are feeling the impact of bloggers. "It hurts because now anyone can publish on the Web. You have people who are politically aligned raising questions about our standards, but there is no attention given to their standards."Sure there is, Mr. Ryerson. If a blogger consistent puts out information found to be bogus, he/she loses readership and the word is out like lightening. By the way, this is the same reason that some traditional media outlets--like yours--have lost viewers and readership. Some things are universal. You've just chosen to ignore it until it jumped up and bit you.
"These are not disinterested observers," he [Ryerson] said of the bloggers. "I've long maintained that the Internet can be a great thing, but it is also a curse."Of course bloggers aren’t disinterested observers! (duh!) Most of us put our biases right up front and center. Would that most traditional media did that. As for the curse thing, you’re correct there also: a curse for people like you.
There are two more newspaper editiors-- Doug Clifton of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and Phil Bronstein of the San Francisco Chronicle--quoted in the article who have more positive, if guarded, things to say about blogging. But at the end, Ryerson squeals a little and fires a parting shot.
"I don't have a crystal ball," he said. "It is hurting and having an impact. They are now using us more as a punching bag."
Asked what he thought about criticism from the blogs that mainstream papers downplay certain stories, O'Shea said, "I write for our readers, not the bloggers."
Do you smell it? I do. It’s the smell of fear.