Scapegoating Bloggers

I remember a couple years ago when Sean Hannity spat out the word “bloggers” like it was a cuss word and then, during the height of the abuse Sarah Palin was receiving, when she too, blamed bloggers. It was head-scratching because both these public figures had benefited mightily from the record-correcting and positive stories by conservative bloggers. More than that, it was irksome.

Unlike journalists, who have biases but pretend they don’t, bloggers are quite open about their biases. That should be refreshing to public figures feeling persecuted but not sure if the journalist is mean or stupid. Now, because bloggers are rarely paid, especially on the right, bloggers will follow a story until the ends of things. This can be annoying for politicians especially used to the news cycle and teensy attention span of national journalists.

So anyway, Matt Lewis has a piece on bloggers today:

Aside from the fact that Paul’s comments had nothing to do with blogging, Fineman (who works for Newsweek, which is in danger of going out of business) clearly thinks bloggers just spew opinions without any accountability to readers. For better or worse (and trust me, I could do without some of the comments people leave on my blogs), online writers and bloggers are much more accountable to readers than was the case in the supposedly halcyon days of traditional journalism. It is a mistake to yearn for a time when the only hope a reader had of responding to a “serious” journalist was submitting a letter to the editor and hoping it got published.

As Tim Fernholz, staff writer at The American Prospect magazine, explains: “Many public figures, especially those in the older generation, confused the medium and the message, equating anyone who publishes solely on the Internet with the craziest people who publish solely on the Internet. It’s as if someone read the Weekly World News and then criticized The New York Times for also being printed on paper — two totally different products, but ignorance leads to broad brushes.”

Other bloggers see the media criticism of bloggers as sour grapes. “At least with newspapers, magazines and TV, they had producers and editors they could count on to keep the blemishes covered,” said Andrew Griffin, an Oklahoma-based conservative blogger who was a reporter for various outlets, including a Gannett newspaper in Louisiana. “But now, bloggers and online journalists — the responsible ones, anyway — are covering the hard news stories that the Big Paper editors ignore or don’t have time for. We have broken stories at my two websites that to this day have been ignored by the local Big Paper and the lapdog TV stations.”

I think that’s the real issue: bloggers do the work that journalists used to do and so the politicians are having an even more challenging time keeping their actions hidden and every exposure reveals mainstream media failings. Both parties are unhappy with this turn of events.

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