BlogCall Featured in Monday NY Times article by Jonathan Glater
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Welcome NY Times readers! That's me on the right, in a photo by John W. Wheeler taken at the Politics Online conference at George Washington University in DC on March 11. At the final session of the conference, called the "Great Debate" between the mainstream media and the blogosphere, I noted the amazing growth of the blogosphere over the past year, and predicted bloggers would score a TKO over the mainstream media in the coming year. For the record, no one in the audience agreed with me. Prophet or fool? Let history be the judge.
The Times article below is bizarre. It initially appears to be a straightforward article about a progressive innovation in bringing the work of investigative bloggers to the mainstream media - although it somehow manages not to mention the name of our effort (BlogCall.org). In the middle, it quotes kind words from a mainstream reporter and even a rightwing blogger.
But the article is driven by the presumption that conservatives "own" the blogosphere and set its standards of quality, relevance, and influence. Doesn't anyone remember how many stories Matt Drudge has gotten utterly and farcically wrong - including Bill Clinton's black love child and John Kerry's intern affair?
And it drives completely off the cliff when it quotes FreeRepublic.com - a borderline criminal site whose members engage in the Internet equivalent of terrorism ("denial of service" attacks, including attacks on Democrats.com) and fantasize about the murder of people they disagree with - including journalists. If there was a progressive site remotely like this, it would have been shut down by Karl Rove's Homeland Security department long ago.
A credible publication would have given us the opportunity to respond. Instead, at the end we're given unsolicited advice from the Freeper, who dismisses our serious, methodical, and thoroughly-document work as nothing but conspiracy theorizing.
Don't worry, I'll certainly get the last word in this battle. The fun begins on the Ed Schultz Show today at 5 p.m. ET.
Liberal Bloggers Reaching Out to Major Media
By JONATHAN D. GLATER
Published: March 14, 2005
Even as online pundits criticize traditional news organizations as slow, biased and technologically challenged, a group of bloggers is trying to use old-fashioned telephone conference calls to share their ideas with newspaper and television journalists.
The bloggers, who describe themselves as liberal or progressive, say the conference calls are intended to counter what they regard as the much stronger influence of conservative pundits online. Bob Fertik, president of Democrats.com, the host of the two calls so far, views them as a step toward getting their reports out to mainstream news organizations.
It's rather strange that the article doesn't identify our effort by its name - BlogCall.org. Was that a conscious decision or just an oversight? This is an area where bloggers are flat-out superior to the mainstream media - credible bloggers always identify their sources and link to them so readers can form their own judgments.
While there is no way to know precisely who dialed in, reporters from news organizations including CBS, The Washington Post, Newsweek, MSNBC and The National Journal asked for a call-in number, according to one participant.
"We hope to build a bridge," Mr. Fertik said, adding that different bloggers would be invited to share their reporting on each call. "We hope that good credible stories that are broken on the Internet find their way into coverage in the mainstream media."
The conference call is a small development in the complex relationship between bloggers and the mainstream media. Traditional journalists largely ignored bloggers when they emerged, but have begun to take note of their influence as online commentators assumed roles in news stories like the flaws in the report by "60 Minutes Wednesday" on President Bush's National Guard service and the comments by the former CNN chief, Eason Jordan, about the military's treatment of journalists in Iraq.
Note the conservative bias: the first major blog expose covered by the mainstream media was Joshua Micah Marshall's blogging on Senator Majority Leader Trent Lott's fulsome praise of Strom Thurmond on Dec. 5, 2002, which created a firestorm that resulted in Lott's resignation as Majority Leader on Dec. 20.
As more news emerges online, or what is reported offline becomes fodder for further investigation, the lines between those operating in the world of online news and commentary and those at the traditional media organizations have become more blurred and sometimes less confrontational. Some news organizations now credit blogs that originate stories, extending to them the treatment other media receive. Some bloggers, in turn, argue that they should receive all the legal privileges that traditional journalists often have, including the right to protect news sources.
Mr. Fertik maintains that the blurring of boundaries has benefited left-wing bloggers less than their adversaries on the right, saying that reports posted on conservative blogs more easily make the jump to the main news media. "The way we perceive it," he said, "is that right-wing bloggers are able to invent stories, get them out on Drudge, get them on Rush Limbaugh, get them on Fox, and pretty soon that spills over into the mainstream media. We, the progressives, we don't have that kind of network to work with."
Some on the right disagree, arguing that the news reported by traditional media is tainted by liberal bias. "We learned years ago that the mainstream media just weren't going to pay attention to us," said Kristinn Taylor of the Web site FreeRepublic.com.
How did FreeRepublic.com - a place that fantasizes about the murder of investigative journalists - make it into an article about serious blogging?
But bloggers on all sides agree that the left has made less effective use of the opportunities to organize and wield influence afforded by the Internet. The reasons, though, are more complex than they might appear. "It's not just a story about the blogosphere," said Jack M. Balkin, a professor and director of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. "It's a story about the conservative social networks of which the blogosphere is a part. The important thing is the network - and I mean the social network."
The whole point of BlogCall is to take on the conservative media network, as I described above: Drudge to Limbaugh to FOX, thence to the mainstream media. This conservative media network is part of a broader conservative political network, which is carefully managed by Karl Rove, and includes covert political operatives posing as journalists, most notably "Jeff Gannon," who conspired with bloggers working with Rep. John Thune to campaign against Sen. Tom Daschle. (This important investigation is being led by The Nashua Advocate.) I don't know if this conservative political network is truly a social network - perhaps we need to find out exactly who "Jeff Gannon" was selling his body to in order to answer that question.
It is probably too early to tell how successful the conference calls have been, although Mr. Fertik said that the audio recording of the first call [John Aravosis discussing "Jeff Gannon"] had been downloaded some 2,000 times. During the second call, held last Tuesday, Brad Friedman, who runs bradblog.com, discussed his investigation into accusations of rigged electronic voting machines - a contentious subject that drew questions from listeners, mostly other bloggers.
Just for the record, most of the questions focused on the mysterious "suicide" of Florida Department of Transportation investigator Ray Lemme, because Brad Friedman broke news of the re-opening of the police investigation of that "suicide" on BlogCall2. Ray Lemme had just completed his investigation of corruption involving Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), and told whistleblower Clint Curtis (who was our co-guest BlogCall2 but is referred to only as "a figure" in the paragraph below) that he "had tracked the corruption 'all the way to the top' and that the story would break in the next few weeks and I would be satisfied with the results."
Some phoned from far away, including places in Canada, to take part in the call, which lasted more than an hour. Listeners asked if a figure in Mr. Friedman's inquiry had taken a lie-detector test and if any traditional news outlets had picked up the story.
Will Femia, a producer at MSNBC.com who monitors blogging, said he was surprised by how well that call worked. "It was a fascinating idea," he said, "and I would also say that it's not a bad idea to try something like that. I know that the news producers that I've spoken with are still engaged in a learning curve on how to extract news from blogs."
Mr. Femia, who sometimes presents ideas based on bloggers' postings, said he was not sure exactly how stories made the transition. "I don't know what the tipping point is," he said, adding that some reporters clearly checked blogs for ideas.
Another conservative Web site, younger than FreeRepublic.com, may offer the best lesson on how to gain influence, a lesson that would resonate with any aspiring journalist: tell a compelling, highly topical story.
Powerlineblog.com was one of the first blogs to spread criticism of the documents used as evidence in the "60 Minutes Wednesday" segment, said Paul Mirengoff, a Washington lawyer and a member of the site. "We put the question on our blog and then our readers started weighing in," he said, adding that because the topic was so sensational, it was inevitable that it would make it into the mainstream media.
Here is a crucial case study on conservative bias in the So-Called Liberal Media (SCLM). What could possibly be more "sensational" than the discovery that Bush was wired with an earpiece for all three debates with John Kerry, and that someone was feeding him his answers?
That story hit the blogs right after the first debate, when bloggers captured TV screen shots of the bulge in Bush's back. NASA scientist Robert Nelson - a 30-year Jet Propulsion Laboratory veteran who works on photo imaging for NASA’s various space probes - saw the photos on Salon.com and did his own analysis, "which clearly revealed a significant T-shaped object." He took his scoop to the Pasadena Star-News, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Los Angeles Times, all of which turned him down.
Nelson finally went to the New York Times, which assigned three science reporters who wrote a major investigative story for publication the week of October 25 (just before the election). But "senior editors" at the Times killed the story on October 27 - and have never published the story. When FAIR's David Lindorff investigated the scrubbing of the story, public editor Daniel Okrent first confirmed the scrubbing, but then accused Salon's David Lindorff of distorting the significance of the Times's own story.
How can NY Times readers (or bloggers) evaluate the significance of the Times' story if it refuses to publish it?
"That really spiked our readership," Mr. Mirengoff said, and established the site as a force to be reckoned with.
Powerlineblog.com is "a force to be reckoned with"? In whose opinion? Is this hot air from Mirengoff or the considered opinion of the New York Times? Surely the reader is entitled to clarity on this point. For the record, Powerlineblog.com is just a footnote in the Rathergate story, as compiled by dKosopedia.
But he disputed the idea that conservative bloggers had greater success in getting their stories spread by mainstream reporters. "The left just thinks we're getting a free ride and the mainstream media are just eating out of our hand," he said. "That's just not the case."
Here's a brief synopsis of the "Mighty Wurlitzer": rightwing blogcrap goes directly from Drudge (and newer rightwing blogs like LittleGreenFootballs) to Rush to FOX and then spills over into the mainstream media via rightwingers like Joe Scarborough and Pat Buchanan on MSNBC, Bob Novak and Paula Zahn on CNN, George Will on ABC, Will and Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post, David Brooks in the NY Times, and their many allies.
He added that he would be curious to see what happened with the conference call effort. "It never would've occurred to me," he said. "It seems a reasonable thing to do and if it works, we might copy it."
Gee, I thought rightwingers had all the new ideas. Will Mirengoff give us full credit? Don't hold your breath.
Mr. Balkin said that building the influence of a particular Web site requires more than simply expressing conservative views online or taking on a broadcast journalist like Dan Rather. What matters is the willingness of like-minded people to establish links to that Web site, to drive more traffic there, and of yet other like-minded people in traditional news organizations, in talk radio and on television to draw on it.
Isn't it bizarre how an article that is supposedly about an innovation by liberal bloggers turned into a how-to manual for aspiring conservative bloggers?
"It's a team effort," Mr. Taylor of FreeRepublic.com said. "We feed off each other, because the radio hosts would have information that we didn't have and then we would post that." In the early days of FreeRepublic, meetings with politicians and other offline efforts helped get word of the site out, too.
Aha! More proof of a true Vast Right Wing Conspiracy among bloggers, radio hosts, politicians, and "other offline efforts." For an excellent description of the actual workings of the VRWC, read or watch The Hunting of the President by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons.
Right-leaning bloggers were unified by the presence of President Bill Clinton in the 1990's, Mr. Balkin said. That fueled their sense of commitment, he said, adding that while the war in Iraq might have a similar effect on the left now, that would take time.
Left-leaning bloggers were unified by the Stolen Election of 2000. Bush's inaugural was met by unprecedented protests, which was documented in Fahrenheit 9-11 and numerous indy films - but went uncovered by the mainstream media. For his first 9 months in office, Bush was greeted by angry protesters everywhere he went - which also went uncovered by the mainstream media. Until 9-11, Bush was in serious political trouble, with his approval ratings dropping down into the 40's - the lowest ratings for any new occupant of the White House.
As for the war in Iraq, Democrats.com led the very first protest on September 12, 2002, when Bush went to the United Nations to beat the first drum of war. Over the next 6 months, those protests drew millions of passionate participants around the world, all of whom were dissed by Bush as merely "a focus group." The mainstream media (led by the Times) ignored those protests until their readers demanded more adequate coverage.
Asked what lessons liberal and progressive bloggers could learn from the experience of FreeRepublic, Mr. Taylor replied that while "I'm loath to give them advice," they might have to outgrow the conspiracy-theory stage of blogging to produce reports that are credible and relevant to a wider audience.
"In the old days of FreeRepublic," he said, "we had all kinds of black helicopters" and speculation about the effect of the Y2K problem. After the world did not end on Jan. 1, 2000, he said, "We tried to be more realistic."
How the hell did this article end up discussing conspiracy theories???
Was John Aravosis in BlogCall1 promoting a specious conspiracy theory when he exposed "Jeff Gannon" as a gay prostitute who was within knife-throwing distance of the President of the United States for two years?
Was Brad Friedman in BlogCall2 promoting a specious conspiracy theory when he presented the story of whistleblower Clint Curtis, who really did write a program to flip votes in touchscreen machines at the request of Rep. Tom Feeney and really did help Florida investigators prosecute fraud by his former employers at Yang Enterprises (whose lawyer was the very same Feeney)?
If our critics want to talk about conspiracy theories, let's talk about one of the biggest conspiracy theories in history, which is currently celebrating its second anniversary: the theory that Iraq had WMD's (including an active nuclear weapons program), was allied with Al Qaeda, and posed the gravest possible threat to the security of the United States.
Who invented that completely insane conspiracy theory? The people who lost the 2000 election but stole the White House with the help of the Supreme Court (and the media) and now claim to be the legitimate government of the United States of America.
Who endorsed and actively promoted that insane conspiracy theory? Every organ of the mainstream media, including all of the TV networks and all of the nation's newspapers (led by the completely unapologetic Judith Miller of the NY Times). And, of course, every organ of the rightwing media, led by FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, and FreeRepublic.com, all of which remain equally unapologetic.
What damage has that conspiracy theory caused? Over 1,500 US soldiers are dead, along with over 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians. Over 10,000 US soldiers are physically maimed for life, and 1/3 of returning soldiers are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. American taxpayers have borrowed over $300 billion and we will have to borrow billions more. Our military is crumbling from within because young Americans have figured out the war is a Big Lie and they don't want to risk their lives in it. And America has alienated or enraged nearly everyone in the rest of the world, which will surely produce more deadly terrorism against Americans in the future.
If the New York Times wants to talk about conspiracy theories, I will debate Judith Miller or Bill Keller anytime, anywhere.
Bring it on!!
Update: let me give a shout-out on this story to:
Update3: rightwing media lies about BlogCall:
- Focus on the Family: Liberal Bloggers Seeking Slanted Coverage
That headline is a flat-out lie. BlogCall is about presenting fact-based investigative reporting to the mainstream media. I sent the following message to FOTF, on the most bizarre feedback form I've ever seen:
You lied about me on your web site
You published this article about me:
Your headline is a flat-out lie:
Liberal Bloggers Seeking Slanted Coverage
When you lie about someone, how does that person contact your Editor and get a correction and apology?
I'm waiting for an answer. If you want to help me get an answer, try 800-232-6459 and let me know what they say.