This is the question being asked on cable news shows, as defenders of the MSM tout the eight (give or take a few) different levels of checks that allegedly take place before an MSM story sees the light of day. Here’s one answer.
A story that we run can be checked, in the first instance, against its sources, which we cite and, if possible, link to. Next, it is checked by our readers. They are quick to correct us because they don’t want us left hanging out to dry, and we can’t thank them enough for this. You can see part of this process at work in the Sixty-first Minute story. Notice, for example, Update 3 in which a reader takes issue with the notion that the documents couldn’t have been produced on an electric typewriter available to the military.
The next level of review comes from other conservative blogs. Conservative bloggers perform a great service by gently pointing out possible weaknesses in stories that are making the rounds, or at least warning folks not to get too enthusiastic too soon. For example, this weekend AllahPundit created a time-line under which the Kerry campaign would have had to have had the Burkett information before CBS did. But INDC cautioned that the time-line depended on the complete accuracy of reports from several different newspapers. AllahPundit quickly posted this caveat.
If the conservative side of the blogosphere falls down on the job, there’s always the liberal side. We don’t spend much time arguing with our liberal counter-parts — life is too short. But on a story as big as the CBS one, we had to respond to the inevitable liberal counter-attack. Rocket Man did so here in “The Daily Kos Strikes Out.”
Finally, on a story like this, the MSM comes into play. In order to remain credible, our version had to stand up to the document examiners and other experts used by the MSM, including CBS. In addition, it had to withstand the scrutiny of their investigative reporters.
It is true, of course, that these levels of review occur after we have already blogged. At CBS, the alleged scrutiny occurs before the story appears. But remember that virtually no one believes a highly controversial story based solely on the fact that it is posted on a blog; to have an impact our work must pass all of the tests listed above. By contrast, until recently at least, millions of people probably would believe such a story just by virtue of its airing by CBS.
If CBS really cares about getting things right, it should welcome the post-publication review that the blogosphere provides. But we can’t provide that review if we are required to hire bureaucrats to check our stories before we post them. That’s known as a barrier to entry. CBS apparently would like such barriers to be erected but, as I hope I’ve shown, there’s no need for them. Ultimately, the blogosphere (along with its individual practitioners) will be be judged by its track record. Right now that record looks pretty good.
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