This morning the Minneapolis Star Tribune observes the occasion of Dan Rather’s retirement with an article about blogs: “In new era of reporting, blogs take a seat at the media table.” The article is by Eric Black, one of the Star Tribune’s best general reporters, but the article is almost unbelievably lame.
We’re only six paragraphs into the story before the focus is on — what else? — the Star Tribune:

Some blogs have embraced a role of influencing traditional media coverage. A prominent blogger [that would be our friend, radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt] recently proposed that conservatives should scrutinize the Star Tribune in a bloggish tactic called “swarming,” which is what happened to Rather after his Bush National Guard story.

Actually, Hugh reserved a domain name for a hypothetical site that would be devoted to criticism of the Star Tribune. The Star Tribune has already been “swarmed” on a few occasions by us and others in the past. Black appears to have no idea what “swarming” is. And “bloggish” — is that like “thuggish”? Funny, we don’t look bloggish.
We’ve regularly devoted ourselves to criticism of the Star Tribune over the past three years. And we’ve actually — not hypothetically — been personally attacked — mugged — both on the news and editorial pages of the Star Tribune in the past six months, but Black doesn’t get around to mentioning that, which might provide a fuller context for his discussion of the “bloggish” tactic of “swarming.”
Here’s what Black takes from his interview with me:

Many blogs are highly interactive, incorporating e-mails from readers into the evolving discussion of a topic. Power Line writers (powerlineblog.com) contributed little or no research to the unraveling of Rather’s infamous story but created a space where thousands of Web activists could advance the discussion of whether CBS’ documents were forgeries.
Scott Johnson, who writes for Power Line under the moniker “Big Trunk,” said the experience demonstrated how blogs can create an instant team of volunteer researchers/reporters who pool their knowledge.

What I said was that our contribution to Rathergate largely resulted from a couple hundred — not “thousands” — emails we received from readers and fellow bloggers (are they “Web activists”?) on September 9, specifically describing the roles played by Little Green Footballs and INDC Journal in the development of the story that morning. Who are the “Web activists”? And how about that “space” we created for them? Would any reader of this story unfamiliar with the facts have any idea what Black is talking about?
The esteemed literary critic Hugh Kenner used to advise: “Newspapers are low-definitional instruments. Never rely for the exact meaning of what you say on the exact placement of a comma.” But Black’s clueless performance in his article this morning brings a new meaning to “low-definitonal.”
My professional colleague and friend Peter Swanson of Swanblog has additional comments in “Swarms, Stribs, and coffee breaks.”


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