December 27, 2005

Lah Di Friggin' Da

Brady Averill of the PiPress looks ahead to blogs' potential impact on the '06 campaign.

She misses the most important point of all.

Averill kicks off with an ironic aside:

"There are some right-wing blogs that even if you tried to have a conversation with them, it's essentially a bunch of frat guys having a party and doing a beer dance,'' said Michael McIntee, producer for the Inside Minnesota Politics blog and podcast. "And that's not useful; it's pretty much making noise."
This from Mike McIntee, who launched a specious attempt at a lawsuit to try to flip the identity of Minnesota Democrats Exposed. Just saying, Brady, that you could pick slightly more-credible sources on the subject.

But I digress. Mr. Averill hits the MSM anti-blog talking point, citing Larry Jacobs, who must have a full-time gig answering media questions; he seems to be the only person on any local reporter's rolodex...:

People who possess strong political beliefs are able to read "almost exclusively from information sources that support their already existing views," said Larry Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study for Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota's Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs.
Partisan blogs might help people on the fence decide whom to vote for, said Nora Paul, director of the Institute for New Media Studies at the University of Minnesota. But they're not about to change minds, especially when the readers go to blogs with similar views.
...which is the usual snif that you get from academics and the MSM - and as usual, misses the point.

Blogs may not change anyone's mind (or they may; I've had my mind changed on at least one issue by bloggers); it's irrelevant. Where blogs excel - and where they'll matter in the '06 campaign - is at informing, empowering and mobilizing. Blogs pass on information that the even talkradio, much less the MSM, won't touch; they empower the citizen to own the issues; they are a direct conduit to activate the people that the larger "elite" media don't bother with.

Blogs may not change any minds - but they will catalyze energy.

Rex Sorgatz, creator of the online forum, said a significant number of the political blogs listed on his Web site are "intrinsically partisan." He said he doesn't have anything against those blogs, but he's "not sure those kinds of blogs are going to change anything in the world."
Powerline, Charles Johnson and the Free Republic - as partisan as one gets - brought down Dan Rather.

Kos notched Trent Lott.

Captain Ed will have played a role in bringing down Canada's liberal government.

Ukranian bloggers - many of them partisan - played a pivotal part in the Orange Revolution.

Rex Sorgatz may not change the world, but he's hardly the final word.

And did you think we could get through an article about blogs without the traditional grump about "no editors?" Hah!

Along with partisanship, credibility is another problem for blogs.
There's nothing in the First Amendment about the need for an editor. Bloggers can write anything they want; they can spout fact or fiction.
Jacobs advises readers to beware: "There's no gatekeeping here."
The popularity of blogs is a symptom of the peoples' growing distrust of the "gatekeepers", and perhaps of the diminishing need for them.

Big question: who picks sources for these articles, anyway? Gary Miller of KVM got a quote, but beyond that - Jim McIntee of the ethically-dubious Inside Minnesota Politics, which gets around 30 visits a day, and even at the height of its' suit-crazy peak was averaging 60 a day? MN Republican Watch, with all of 13 incoming links and a backlog of niggling inside-politics gossip to tittler about? No, there's nothing wrong with low-to-mid-traffic blogs; many of my favorite blogs clock 100-300 visits a day - but does Mr. Averill expect to get sweeping insight into the world of blogs from what looks like a random collection of obscure writers (says Mitch, noting that he is himself an obscure writer)? To say nothing of Larry Jacobs, who is about as credible on blogs as I am on cooking?

Sort of like asking "Pulse" magazine for a sweeping insight about the Chicago Tribune, isn't it?

Ms. Averill: Hang in there.

Posted by Mitch at December 27, 2005 04:39 PM | TrackBack

Was that Mike McIntee connected with the company Conus Communications (which was part of the Hubbard Broadcasting company)?

Just curious. Anyone know?

Posted by: badda-blogger at December 27, 2005 05:58 PM

Point of clarification Mitch:

It's Brady. Miss Averill, if you're nasty!

Posted by: the elder at December 27, 2005 06:08 PM

"Where blogs at informing, empowering and mobilizing."

Empowering and mobilizing definitely, but I dispute your assertion that blogs excel at informing. This was Mr. Jacobs' point; if you're gathering your information only from sources that are sympathetic to your politics and views then you're not really getting informed are you? You're simply having pre-existing opinions reinforced through a veneer of so-called "citizen journalism." The truth is when it comes to newsgathering blogs suck, due to an overabundance of opinion and an almost complete lack of resources (I still laugh when I think of Hugh Hewitt's assertion last summer during California's wildfire season that the best coverage of the fires would come from blogs. WHAT? Some guy in San Bernardino with a Powerbook watching the skies get hazier is going to scoop the LA Times? No pony for you.) I think one needs to refer to a variety of sources to be truly informed, an idea that has been heralded by many of your much-maligned "lefty" journalists since the 1970s.

Badda...did you toil at Conus?

Posted by: Tim at December 27, 2005 07:59 PM

best thing the blogs do is dredge up internet info that supports their preconceived notions. saves us a lot of effort.

the rightwing blogs are particularly useful in demonstrating the intellectual turns needful to follow the current Republican party line - as amusing as watching the Daily Worker follow the Stalinist line in the old days.

or look to the 19th century partisan press - for those who care to learn from history - beautiful invective and some revelations, but all from someone who is out to get an appropriation for the public printing or an appointment to a sweet public position - "good pay and no duties, something that suits my talents" as one editor put it.

Posted by: bobbythehat at December 27, 2005 09:12 PM


"if you're gathering your information only from sources that are sympathetic to your politics and views then you're not really getting informed are you?"

How does that not describe how the Star/Trib gathers the news it decides to print? How many substantive columns come directly from the NYT, or some similarly-biased source? Or from local columnists who share the NYT's bias?

You're equating size with diversity, I think, and wrongly. The Times, the Trib, and quite a few other "prime MSM sources" just have more similarly-biased people sitting in their room.

Posted by: bobby_b at December 27, 2005 10:14 PM

The idea that we should gather our news from a variety of sources is bunk. It's been proven that reading news and editorials written from an opposing point of view only serves to reinforce the reader's beliefs and opinions... not to mention that it can be hazardous to one's health, like when my blood pressure rises by 50 pts when listening to NPR.
This is the eternal truth about newspapers: Whenever you read a newspaper article about a topic with which you have personal expertise or first hand experience (or when you yourself are "quoted"), the article is invariably inaccurate on a very basic, very important level.
CBS literally tried to steal an election. Newsweek's editor openly claimed that his publication would be worth 15 pts to Kerry/Edwards.
The curtain has lifted on the Wizard of Oz that is the MSM. It has been exposed, and while it will continue to be important for passing along "news" of murders and sordid affairs it will become irrelevant politically.
As for blogs,
1) The blogosphere is in its relative infancy
2) It seems to me that the fact checking in the blogosphere is more rigorous, and the collective expertise is greater than what a newspaper can bring to any one story. Bloggers of both stripes seem much more willing to make corrections and admit factual errors than do MSM members. (For example, Tim, as a BS degreed forester I can tell you that nearly everything you read in the MSM about the ecology of forest fires is complete and utter crap. So yes, I think a knowledgeable guy with a laptop is more reliable in many cases than the hallowed LA Times.)
3) It is not the homogenous echo chamber many believe. For example, I tend to read blogs that lean right (I don't think my truth quotient will increase by visiting Kos and friends with equal regularity, and then there's that whole blood pressure issue). However, within the blogs I read there is a divergence of opinion ranging from Christian right to small-l socially liberal libertarianism, with lots of disagreement on issues of gay rights, gun ownership, Patriot Act, etc.
4) The MSM seems completely unable and unwilling to deal in absolutes, probably for fear that this might make them seem partial to one side or another. Worshipping at the alter of 'impartiality' causes such ridiculous elephant-in-the-room moments as refusal to universally blast the Mapes documents as pathetic forgeries -- something bloggers were able to do within 24 hours (and Charles Johnson was able to prove in about 10 minutes).

Posted by: chriss at December 27, 2005 11:26 PM

I have a way of making PB look succinct don't I?
As my dad once said about James Michener, I must be getting paid by the word. (By Rove, of course)

Posted by: chriss at December 27, 2005 11:30 PM

I'll believe the MSM is a neutral political actor when I see an point-by-point comparison of Clinton's military record with W's in the NY Times.

Posted by: Terry at December 27, 2005 11:41 PM

Toil I did... with a great gang of folks, though.

Posted by: badda-blogger at December 28, 2005 08:13 AM

2) It seems to me that the fact checking in the blogosphere is more rigorous, and the collective expertise is greater than what a newspaper can bring to any one story.
Posted by chriss at December 27, 2005 11:26 PM

Mr. Michener, I think you have nailed it with this observation. I watch threads spin out all day with contention, egomania and above all sourcing for opinion. I've had Mr. Clown call me on facts (rightly so) on this very thread.
The advantage blogs have over the MSM is that contention. I doubt there's a whole lot of debate taking place on the editorial staff of the Red Star.

Posted by: Kermit at December 28, 2005 08:40 AM

If I only read the Star Tribune for news followed by the editorials...(which I still do) on how many issues would I have been misinformed? Iraqi elections would not have happened mulitple times, Bush was AWOL, Joe Wilson told no lie, and the NSA is listening in on all my calls and not calls placed by Al-Queda agents! Honestly, in each case my reading of conservative blogs left me better informed than someone who relied on the NYTimes or Star exclusively. Yes, many blogs reinforce existing views, but if you're a msm type and then you go to Kos how does that expand your horizons?

Posted by: Dave V at December 28, 2005 11:11 AM

Badda: I was at All News Channel for a coupla know, the 24-hr. operation financed by Stanley Hubbard's pocket change.

Posted by: Tim at December 28, 2005 12:04 PM

Me too... back in 1999 and 2000 (through early 2001).

Posted by: badda-blogger at December 28, 2005 12:42 PM

let the record show that I completely agree with Mitch.
pretty much word-for-word. a rare ocurrence!

also... allow me to be a whore for a moment -- if any of you guys has a video camera and isn't afraid to use it, please submit a short video to Minnesota Stories. if can be a slice of life, interesting interview or personal story, or even a political rant. for some reason it's hard to find video with a conservative bent -- i would welcome it.

Posted by: Chuck Olsen at December 28, 2005 07:58 PM

Videoblogging. Hm.

For starters, I'm more of an audio guy. I've got a face for radio.

However, we need to talk about this.

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