Archive for the ‘Blogs Using Mainstream Sources’ Category

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.


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.

Geithner confirmation problems

January 14, 2009

President-elect Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary, Tim Geithner, has stumbled upon some troubles in being confirmed to the position. Issues have arisen about his alleged failure to pay taxes for three years and the immigration status of some of his house workers.

Conservatives blogs are surprisingly mixed. Powerline offers a defense of sorts, saying it can be easy for busy people with odd employment statuses to be confused. In fact, it says conservative blog Hot Air’s post on Geithner’s problems had “gone overboard” by calling him a “tax cheat.” Hot Air had a new, measured post today, in which they got away from calling Geithner a “tax cheat,” but argued that as New York Fed chair, he “oversaw Citigroup’s descent into the toilet.” Michelle Malkin is on attack mode, with multiple posts referring to Geithner as a “tax dodger.”

Among these conservative blogs, there is one constant: they are reflections on the reporting of others. Sources include The Wall Street Journal (who broke the story), Bloomberg, ABC News’ Jake Tapper’s blog, and more.

On the left, The Huffington Post has some commentary provided by blogger Joanne Bamburger. It also has an AP story and some original reporting by Sam Stein, Stein’s report with an expert saying that Geithner’s tax error is common. Left-leaning Talking Points Memo has a post with analysis and commentary portraying Geithner in a sympathetic light. They do not offer any new information, simply a response to the same Wall Street Journal story Hot Air referenced. The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder also responds to the WSJ report, again defending Geithner without offering much in the way of original reporting.

This story is another example of what I think will be a common theme: blogs can sometimes offer original information, as Sam Stein does. But Stein has so far offered only original reporting that backs the liberal views of Huffington Post readers. So that means that either a) liberals are always right or b) Stein functions as someone who legitimizes the already-held viewpoint of the blog readership. Because two weeks is not ample time to gather an an accurate sample, we should keep an eye on this throughout the semester.

Outside of Stein, however, we have more of what we saw last week: Blogs using mainstream media sources and providing their own commentary on them. While some also referenced each other, they mostly linked to a news story and opined. We again saw other blogs linked to as a source, but this time it was ABC News, an already-established news source.

As we begin monitoring these blogs more regularly, we may see some change in this pattern. Until then, file this one under “Blogs using mainstream sources.”

Roland Burris to be seated

January 7, 2009

The big news today is that Roland Burris, the man appointed to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat by semi-disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich, may be seated by Senate Democrats after his initial rejection yesterday. They initially did not want to seat Burris to avoid any potential trouble in accepting the choice of a man accused of selling that very seat.

The reaction online has actually been somewhat muted. The Drudge Report had the story as its lead item for most of the day, under the headline “BLAGO WINS: Senate Dems ‘plan to accept ‘ Roland Burris for Obama’s vacancy.’ The headline uses a bit of loaded language. By saying that “Blago wins” Drudge implies that there was a battle between an apparently corrupt governor and Senate Democrats. And the Senate Democrats lost. Drudge, whose site is a destination for mostly conservatives, certainly benefits by getting that shot in. Aside from this loaded language, he links to this story, a wire report from Chicago’s CBS affliliate’s Web site.

Also on the right, Michelle Malkin is relatively quiet, posting a single-line entry with a link to a wire story on Conservative-leaning news aggregator Breitbart.’s Ed Morrissey links to a wire story and offers some opinions on the situation.

Left-leaning blog The Huffington Post links to essentially the same wire story. The site also includes some video from MSNBC, in addition to some original reporting by Sam Stein saying that Obama is putting some of his weight behind Burris to get him seated.

Additionally, blogger Jane Hamsher (who also founded and blogs for left-leaning has an entry on the subject. He entry links back to several other places, including her own site and more traditional news sources like Politico, Reuters and The New York Times. Of interest to this blog, she also linked to two other blogs who often offer reporting as well as insight: Politico’s Glenn Thrush (whose original reporting is linked to) and’s Chriss Cillizza (who offers both analysis and original reporting in his link).

One thing that she be taken from today is how on this story, sites like Drudge, Malkin, Huffington Post did not offer as much reporting as they linked to the reporting of others and offered their own insights (and gave commenters a place to discuss their own opinions as well). This is not to say that there is anything wrong with that, but if we are looking to analyze the role of blogs in modern journalism, it must be said. Meanwhile, blogs at and Politico, to companies who use original reporting as a large part of their business model, are also referenced as sources for these other blogs’ opinions. It will be interesting to see if this is a theme throughout the semester.