Several weeks ago, I appeared on a radio show to discuss the influence that blogs like Power Line have. The liberal host suggested that blogs don’t have any real influence until they push a story into the MSM. I demurred, stating that by virtue of being read by 100,000 people or more, some of whom are themselves quite influential, a blog like Power Line has influence. But I agreed that, in the case of something like Rathergate, blogs cannot make a difference without MSM coverage.
After the Eason Jordan affair, I wonder whether I conceded too much. Most of the MSM never touched the story, yet Jordan is out. It can be argued that he’s out because CNN realized that the MSM was on the verge of covering the story. But one can also make the case that he’s out largely because some U.S. Senators learned about the story from blogs and expressed concern about it to Larry Kudlow. In that scenario, the fall of CNN’s news chief can be explained entirely without reference to the MSM.
Given its lack of desire to report the news objectively, only two things can motivate the MSM to report stories that are embarrassing to liberals. The first is the desire to spin the story and the second is the desire not to be embarrassed itself. Both motives kick in only after a story has gained a considerable amount of buzz, but it’s clear that blogs can generate that buzz in certain cases.
The first motive, a far stronger one, was missing in the case of Jordan in part because Jordan didn’t provide the MSM with anything to work with (like an apology). The second motive wasn’t strong enough to propel the story, although it might eventually have been. But the fact that that Jordan is gone without any MSM involvement means that both motives should have greater force in the future. Indeed, the lesson of the Jordan affair and the Swiftvets is that if the MSM wants a say it must jump in quickly once the blogosphere buzz reaches a certain threshold. If instead it resorts to “rope-a-dope”, it will be left to lament after the fact, David Gergen style, that the blogosphere, through its shrillness, has taken down a long-time star over one mistake. (In realilty, Jordan should have been ousted for covering up Saddam Hussein’s atrocities).
The MSM needs to rise to this challenge. It actually is possible (or soon will be) for blogosphere buzz to take down people unjustly. The MSM represents a check against this. But only if it’s willing to face up to reality and participate.
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