In his Daily Standard column, Hugh Hewitt responds to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial derogation of the amateurs of the blogosphere in favor of the pros of the Journal (and CNN, I guess) in connection with the controversy over Eason Jordan’s Davos remarks: “Gentlemen jockeys win the derby.” Hugh rises to the defense of the three milbloggers of Easongate and the humble civilian bloggers of Power Line as commentators worthy of consideration in connection with the Jordan affair.
The Journal editorial that provoked Hugh’s column is an oddity for more reasons than the elitist disdain that radiates from it. The editorial leads with two self-congratulatory paragraphs on the Journal’s reporting of Jordan’s January 27 Davos remarks:
The writers of these [editorial] columns believe that, in addition to having opinions, we are ultimately in the same information business as the rest of the press corps. Which is why we try to break news whenever we can if a story merits the attention.
So it was only normal for our Bret Stephens to report a January 27 panel discussion he attended at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, during which CNN’s Eason Jordan appeared to say–before he tried to unsay it–that U.S. troops had deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq. Mr. Stephens’s story appeared the next day in our Political Diary, an e-mail newsletter for subscribers that is part of this Web site. It is the first account by any news organization of what has come to be known as Easongate.
Yet Stephens’s January 28 account of Jordan’s remarks was not made available to subscribers of the Journal. No word of Jordan’s January 27 remarks appeared in the Journal proper until Stephens’s op-ed column of February 10, at which point the controversy over them was already long in the tooth. If Jordan’s remarks were newsworthy, why didn’t the Journal report them? On that subject the Journal is mysteriously silent.
Today’s OpinionJournal coincidentally carries Peggy Noonan’s open-hearted embrace of the blogosphere: “The blogs must be crazy.” It’s a slightly indirect rebuke of the Journal editorial and a sophisticated consumer’s celebration of the best of what is on offer in the blogosphere. Here are her points 2 through 5 of 7:
2. Bloggers, unlike reporters at elite newspapers and magazines, are independent operators. They are not, and do not have to be, governed by mainstream thinking. Nor do they have to accept the directives of an editor pushing an ideology or a publisher protecting his friends. Bloggers have the freedom to decide on their own when a story stops being a story. They get to decide when the search for facts is over. They also decide on their own when the search for facts begins. It was a blogger at the World Economic Forum, as we all know, who first reported the Eason Jordan story. It was bloggers, as we all know, who pursued it. Matt Drudge runs a news site and is not a blogger, but what was true of him at his beginning (the Monica Lewinsky story, he decided, is a story) is true of bloggers: It’s a story if they say it is. This is a public service.
3. Bloggers have an institutional advantage in terms of technology and form. They can post immediately. The items they post can be as long or short as they judge to be necessary. Breaking news can be one sentence long: “Malkin gets Barney Frank earwitness report.” In newspapers you have to go to the editor, explain to him why the paper should have another piece on the Eason Jordan affair, spend a day reporting it, only to find that all that’s new today is that reporter Michelle Malkin got an interview with Barney Frank. That’s not enough to merit 10 inches of newspaper space, so the Times doesn’t carry what the blogosphere had 24 hours ago. In the old days a lot of interesting information fell off the editing desk in this way. Now it doesn’t. This is a public service.
4. Bloggers are also selling the smartest take on a story. They’re selling an original insight, a new area of inquiry. Mickey Kaus of Kausfiles has his bright take, Andrew Sullivan had his, InstaPundit has his. They’re all selling their shrewdness, experience, depth. This too is a public service.
5. And they’re doing it free. That is, the Times costs me a dollar and so does the Journal, but Kausfiles doesn’t cost a dime. This too is a public service. Some blogs get their money from yearly fund-raising, some from advertisers, some from a combination, some from a salary provided by Slate or National Review. Most are labors of love. Some bloggers–a lot, I think–are addicted to digging, posting, coming up with the bright phrase. OK with me. Some get burned out. But new ones are always coming up, so many that I can’t keep track of them and neither can anyone else.
(Thanks to RealClearPolitics.)