Sunday, April 03, 2005

The Insidious Influence of Blogs

Two telling examples from the Times today showing how the blogosphere is helping to lower journalistic standards:

In the Week in Review Section, there is a story on the plight of Centrist Democrats. It's the usual blather about the increasing partisanship in Washington and the drift away from the center of both parties, but in it, there's reference to the hostility that has arisen to Joe Lieberman. The reporter quotes one Keith Crane, identifying him as a resident of Connecticut and author of the website, DumpJoe.com. It seems to me that posting such a website is really no different than going around your hometown and throwing up a couple of fliers saying "Dump Joe." Most reporters would ignore such postings as likely the doings of a quack, but somehow when they are on a website they gain legitimacy? In any case, quoting Crane as proof of any level of animosity toward Lieberman seems to me at best just laziness -- the reporter found it easier to get ahold of blogger than he did a Connecticut pollster -- or at worst reckless -- what if Crane is being paid by the Republicans? a Nazi? a guy who is angry at Lieberman because 20 years ago he hit with his car in a supermarket parking lot and then stiffed him on the repair bill? You see my point -- the web makes it all too easy for reporters, notorious for preferring to sit at their desks rather than go out and interview them, to find sources who seem credible, but aren't.

Also in the Week in Review, there's a story on fractiousness within Republican ranks (one wonders why the Times couldn't have combined these two stories). "Conservative commentators and blogs are even warning that Republican divisions could turn into turmoil once President Bush begins his fade from power," the reporter notes. The addition of the phrase "and blogs" is supposed, I guess, to add extra credibility to the reporter's claim about the conservative movement -- you see, even the bloggers agree with me! I just wonder who these conservative bloggers are, and what standing they have to comment on the state of the conservative party. I would also humbly point out that there is something of a selection bias here -- the people who write blogs tend to be fractious; they are motivated by their desire to dissent publicly (if you feel your opinion is being adequately articulated by Republicans, what's your motivation to post your opinion).

I know these are small, perhaps even quibbling examples. But we already have far too many so-called "experts" blathering away on the airwaves. It terrifies me to think that the blogosphere will so democratize our notion of expert that almost anyone can obtain the legitimacy needed to be quoted as an authority.

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