Archive for March, 2009

HuffPo to launch investigative endeavor

March 30, 2009

It was announced yesterday that popular liberal blog The Huffington Post will begin sponsoring a team of investigative journalists. According the report, it will be a joint project between HuffPo and The Atlantic Philanthropies, a self-identified “progessive” philanthropic organization. According to the AP, the organizations will jointly spend $1.75 million to fund the project. Arianna Huffington, the blog’s founder, said she wants to keep journalists working in the tough climate journalism is in. For more analysis, the Guardian has a take on the new venture.

Obviously, this is an exciting development in the world of blogs. So far, we have seen blogs used as little more than vehicles of partisan sniping (though we have established that there are exceptions, too). This new blog could be something that helps change that, inspiring other blogs to (at least try to) do some digging themselves as they compete for site views.

The one thing that raises a potential red flag is that both HuffPo and The Atlantic Philanthropies are politically inclined organizations, and that inclination is very clearly liberal. Though it has never stopped The Huffington Post from breaking news that shines a negative light on Democrats or liberals (then- Sen. Obama’s “bitter” comments in the last election), the main thrust of the site seems dedicated to commenting on the major news of the day from a liberal perspective and slamming Republicans. Will this intestigative team – whose first assignment is the nebulous topic of the economy – be independently investigating the causes of our current trouble (for example) or will their charge be o identify Republicans who can share some blame? While there has been nothing to suggest this investigative team will be ideologiclly charged, it is something to keep a watch for whenever ideological groups sponsor projects. But only time will tell.

A Presidential blunder

March 20, 2009

Just in case it was missed, President Obama appeared on The Tonight Show last night to discuss the economy. While bantering with Jay Leno, they talked about how the President was making use of the White House bowling alley. President Obama said this:

The controversy is about the comment towards the end, when he called his poor bowling (a 129) “like the Special Olympics.” I’m pretty sure most people have themselves compared a poor athletic performance to the Special Olympics, or at least know someone who has. So the level of offense taken to the Presidents comments is something I thought the blogs would reflect. I was wrong.

Instead of a debate on whether or not the Special Olympics remark was offensive, what is reflected is more (predictable) partisanship. Liberal blogs Firedoglake and DailyKos made absolutely no mention of it, while the Huffington Post had a post from Jason Linkins who called the remark “ill-advised” but spent the bulk of his post with a commentary on what the President said about banks (you know, the actual news of the issue).

On the conservative side, the story is a big hit. The Drudge Report had the ABC News story on it as the lead story link, with several follow-up links about the issue. Conservative blogs Hot Air, Big Hollywood and Powerline all weigh in with responses ranging from snarky to indignant. These were not the only responses to the gaffe, however, but to list all of the conservative blogs lining up to take their shots at the President would take all day.

So what do we learn from this? I would argue that this is another case of blogs being little more than opinion sounding boards: places for people to weigh on on the topic. But what could be interesting to see is if this story makes any newsprint tomorrow. Perhaps because the show aired after most papers had gone to print or perhaps because it’s not that big of a deal in the eyes of editors, this story didn’t make the paper today (from what I saw).

As these blogs kick the story around, they have the potential to keep it in the public light. If they do influence tomorrow’s paper, they will have done more than just act as sounding boards. So this blog will wait and see.

Taking stock

March 12, 2009

So since we’re about halfway home, it’s time to take stock of where we are and where we’re going. So far, in the cases we have studied, blogs tend to be a bit more opinion-oriented. They tend to take a news item from an established media outlet and comment on it, presenting their view and allowing their commenters to have a discussion about it. These blogs include DailyKos, Hot Air and too many others to list in one place. So why is it that these blogs have such an attraction to readers? My early guess is that people enjoy reading arguments and news from their point of view and, in several cases, that fits their own pre-existing point of view. For more on this, read a post I did on this topic on my blog for Garett Graff’s class, You’re Making Me Do This…
To be completely honest, I am a bit disappointed in this project. When I pitched it, I had this vision of blogs posting stuff that the mainstream media would then jump on and report out themselves. After all, Talking Points Memo is helmed by Josh Marshall, the journalist who broke the U.S. Attorney firing story. So we know cases like that EXIST, we just have yet to see any this semester (aside from Deadspin breaking news about Mark McGwire’s steroid past). In fact, we have pointed out that The Huffington Post offers unique reporting on a daily basis. However, from what we have seen this reporting tends to be supplementary, as in it provides further detail into someone else’s story. It also sometimes include a level of personal opinion injected into it.

So where do we go from here? Well, the monotony of reading echo-chamber opinion blogs is certainly headache-inducing. So while we continue to monitor them just in case, we will focus closer on blogs like TPM and The Huffington Post, those with reporting staffs to see what kind of reporting they do and how much of what they do gets taken up by the mainstream media.

Kos keeps busy on a slow news day

March 5, 2009

Today was a relatively slow news day. So it seems to be an interesting time to look at what the blogs did. In particular, the question is whether they generated their own news or if they picked up on and went with what traditional media news they could find.

Liberal Web site DailyKos generated a good deal of content, including a Q & A with author Steven Johnson, personal opinions, information aggregation, calls to actioncommentary on mainstream news and snark. They also have several daily open threads. These are collections of links to various bits of news, either from mainstream sites or other blogs. They are posted in an effort to get comments going, creating a discussion among the site’s readers.

While this is certainly useful for people who want one-stop shopping on information they find particularly  interesting, there is nothing in the way of original reporting. In fact, if you go to several of the  blogs that are linked to in the open thread,  they are just posting and commenting on news from other mainstream sources. In a way, it seems that they are simply giving readers a way to get the information without giving the reporting institution pageviews.

But this is not meant to in any way single out the DailyKos. I use this blog because of its strong, dedicated following that helped make it into the blogosphere leader that it is today. There is a reason that it gets the attention it does, and I believe that the reason is that they are so good at updating constantly with information they know their readers want. But so far in our brief study, none of that is original reporting.