Archive for the ‘Blogs Report’ Category

Blogs keep ’em honest (sorta)

April 22, 2009

Last week (sorry for not getting to this sooner), one of the big stories was the many “tea party protests” around the nation. These were held, mostly by financial conservatives, on April 15 (“Tax Day”) to “voice their opposition to out of control spending at all levels of government.” The protests were in large part promulgated by grassroots, online efforts, including several blogs.

As tends to be the case when large groups of people gather in coordinated events around the nation, this was covered by most mainstream media outlets. One of those outlets, CNN, sent reporter Susan Rosen to cover one of the rallies in Chicago.

Rosen’s report from the scene was, regardless of one’s views of the rally, disappointing at best. Her tone sounded condescending, she was argumentative with a person she was interviewing and insinuated that the rallies were being driven by conservative cable news network Fox News.

Needless to say, this did not sit well with many of the Tea Party supporters. One of them confronted Rosen after the segment and began to excoriate her. A video camera from conservative blog Founding Bloggers was on hand to capture the exchange.

As you can tell, the people on the ground did not appreciate what they perceived to be a hit job of sorts. The woman on the right tries to (loudly) explain to Rosen the purpose of the rallies and excoriates her for, in the protester’s mind, misrepresenting the proceedings.

What is interesting to me and germane to the point of this project is how the blogosphere policed the mainstream media. The major network account was both blatantly opinionated and, in some cases, misrepresented the facts of the event (its purpose, how it was promoted, etc.). But a blogger (or associate of a blogger) with a
camera was able to look deeper into the situation and provide a bigger picture, one where we see the reaction from the people on the ground, and we are given a context that suggests that perhaps what was reported was not ENTIRELY accurate.

Obviously, it should be taken into account that these conservative blogs all wrote about the incident, reflecting on it through their red-colored-glasses. But what can’t be denied is how one blog with a camera was able to at least partially, in the eyes of some, undermine an established media report with some hard work on their own part.

Just in case you were curious, liberal blog Huffington Post’s reporting and commentary was decidedly opinionated. (Give the headlines a glimpse. From “descent to madness” to “kooks,” it’s quite clear how the story was played there.) This includes people who are bylined as “Reporting from DC.”


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.

Blogs break news… kinda

February 28, 2009

Following his response to President Obama’s address before Congress Tuesday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was accused of lying about his stated involvement in the Katrina recovery efforts. Here is the address:

The story begins at 2:45 into the video, when he begins recanting a story about a visit with Sheriff Harry Lee. But liberal blog DailyKos claimed to have found some holes in Jindal’s story. They were able to piece together news reports from the days following Katrina and track where Jindal had been reported to be speaking from.

Similarly liberal blog TPMMuckraker put together a similar effort, pointing out the holes in Jindal’s story, most notably that Sherriff Lee told Larry King that he found out a week later “one of the reason boats couldn’t get in was they didn’t have enough life preservers and some of them didn’t have proof of insurance.”

These revelations were enough to get the Jindal team on the defensive, contacting Politico’s Ben Smith several times to respond to the allegations, saying the governor never said the story took place in the days immediately after Katrina, and offered a video of Lee endorsing Jindal for governor in 2007.

Given the blogs’ idealogical bents, it would be easy to summarily dismiss these as nitpicking a political opponent. However, they were able to put Jindal on the defensive, at least to Politico. So why have they yet to make a bigger splash with traditional media?

There are several possibilities. To begin – and at the risk of sounding like Jindal’s team – he never did state exactly when the conversation in question took place. As such, it’s impossible to call it an outright lie and what’s left is, at the worst, a politician stretching the truth. Hardly groundbreaking.

But perhaps a larger underlying problem is the quality of the journalism done by these blogs. While piecing together old news reports to form a coherent picture is no easy task, they really did little to prove one way or another what really happened. They rely on reports which were done in a time of crisis, and crisis-time reporting has time and again been shown to be less reliable due to the lack of immediately available reliable information and states of mind of all parties involved (see also 9/11 stories). Neither blog is able to speak directly to any party involved directly or indirectly, though TPMMuckraker claims to have put in an (unreturned) call to Jindal’s office.

Furthermore, the crux of the DailyKos argument seems to be that Jindal is repeatedly quoted from Baton Rouge, meaning the then-Congressman could obviously not be in New Orleans. Which is true: if you are in one place you cannot be in another. However, this ignores a very real possibility: Jindal went to New Orleans and came back to Baton Rouge in the course of the day. The two cities are separated by 82 miles, making it about an hour and a half drive or probably a quicker helicopter ride. So establishing that Jindal was in Baton Rouge for several news reports proves nothing as to the veracity of the story you are attacking.

The inability of these blogs to make much of a national impact is unfortunate. As we have seen so far, there are many more examples of blogs acting as little more than soundings boards; a place to give thoughts on the work of others. However, the should be lauded for attempting to expose a political leader.