As the election campaign unfolded, operators of some of the internet's politics-oriented blogs, no doubt high on the perfume of many "hits" and their own developing sense of community, envisioned a future when they would diminish then replace the traditional media as the nation's primary source of political news and commentary.
One of the more self-important of these blog-ops, Andrew Sullivan, declared in a newspaper article in September that the internet upstarts had become, along with cable-TV, the new "powerbrokers in American politics and culture," primed to unseat "old media." In another piece he compared the new and old thusly: "Critics of blogs cite their lack of professionalism. Piffle. The dirty little secret of journalism is that it really isn't a profession, it's a craft. All you need is a telephone and a conscience and you're all set." That hubris was rampant through much of blogland as election night rolled round.
As someone who has fact-checked Sullivan from time to time, I am sympathetic. He reminds me of the Vichy editor sent in from Cleveland to preside over the dismantling of my last publication who commented that the copy desk could be dispensed with "if we'd only all just make sure to spell check."
CBS, of course, has reason for sour grapes after the Rathergate incident, for which they really only have themselves to blame (or rather, Rather, who bumbled like a big, dumb egotistical walrus in making himself the story rather than the President's military record).
But I've had my say on all that. It just goes to show you that journalism is a matter of a disciplined team of dedicated people cooperating in a certain way under a certain shared ethical code. Bloggers like to say, "the comments are my editor," but the fact is that when people bother commenting at all, it's more likely to be a gang of partisans contributing to the echo machine effect and heckling any fact checkers and dissenters as "trolls."
Still, there's nothing to say bloggers can't commit journalism and compete with the pros. It's not rocket science, after all! It's a handful of simple principles and a whole lot of legwork, mostly: Sullivan has a point there about it being a "craft" ... not that he follows his own advice, having preferred rock stardom to working with the team over there at New Republic. Journalism is really factory work in many ways, which is why folks like Sullivan are so galling: They're a bunch of suits who've read too many books on the cult of entrepreneurship, deluding themselves that they have found the ultimate way to nullsize and nosource the workforce and produce the same quality product with sheer b-school marketing brilliance, computers, and cross-genre cross-marketing gimmicks like appearing on Bill Maher and Hardball. You still can't run good play-by-play unless you have someone at the stadium and a crack pit crew ready to knock it into shape and turn it into hot lead.