Today’s New York Times looks at the role of bloggers in keeping the mainstream media honest. Well, that’s not quite how they put it:
Practicing cheap and dirty politics, playing fast and loose with the facts and even lying: Accusations like these, and worse, have been slung nonstop this year.
The accused in this case are not the candidates, but the mainstream news media. And the accusers are an ever-growing army of Internet writers, many of them partisans, who reach hundreds of thousands of people a day.
Journalists covering the campaign believe the intent is often to bully them into caving to a particular point of view. They insist the efforts have not swayed them in any significant way, though others worry the criticism could eventually have a chilling effect.
I think it would be a wonderful thing if our efforts chilled journalists sufficiently so that they would stop making things up and passing off forged documents.
Power Line gets a mention near the end:
Most political reporters interviewed for this article insisted that outside forces did not sway them from being fair, though a couple admitted they could not rule out having pulled punches in small and even subconscious ways.
Some effects are more obvious.
When “60 Minutes” reported on documents purporting to show Mr. Bush received preferential treatment in the Air National Guard, questions about the documents’ authenticity originated and caught fire on the FreeRepublic and Power Line blog Web sites; mainstream outlets followed. CBS News admitted two weeks later that it could not authenticate the documents. The NBC anchor Tom Brokaw recently likened the tone of the Internet coverage of the CBS National Guard report, presented by the anchor Dan Rather, to a “political jihad.” In an interview last week Mr. Brokaw said CBS News had clearly made mistakes. But, he said, “I think there were people just lying in the Internet bushes, waiting to strike, and I think that particular episode gave them a big opportunity.”
In other words, we were right, but we’re still somehow blameworthy because we were “waiting to strike.” That’s an interesting standard; does it apply when the mainstream media puts out hit pieces on Republicans? All we ever ask is that news sources like the Times, CBS and NBC get the facts right and not make stuff up. Why doesn’t the same standard apply to us?
I’ll discuss this with Mr. Brokaw when I see him next week.
By the way, it’s interesting that one of the main themes of the Times article is the abusive language and personal attacks that are directed against reporters and news outlets by bloggers. In fact, though, every single instance of a personal or abusive attack cited in the article came from the left.