Saturday, February 12, 2005

Omens and Portents

Regarding Eason Jordan (what else?): having slept on the extraordinary dénouement of this episode I think there are some conclusions and predictions that can be drawn.

1) My conviction that "the most glorious mission of the blog is to watch the watchers" has been validated, especially given that this was a purely blogger action; Drudge, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck - all were silent on Jordan for one reason or another. Bloggers have demonstrated that they have the power to affect history. Imagine how different things would be today if blogs had been around during the Tet Offensive to point out the absolute incompetence of people who later became major influences in Western journalism.

2) Some of the comments to posts in Jay Rosen's PressThink (look for "witchhunter" remarks) indicate a widening of the left-right blogger divide in the wake of Jordan's resignation. I've given Rosen a hard time mainly because I perceive him to be left-leaning, and, as a journalism professor, inclined to give too much benefit of the doubt to Jordan. Also, Rosen believes in Advocacy Journalism, which is anathema to me. My own journalism professor was an old school print reporter who did not allow his students to call him by any honorific other than "Mr." To be fair, I think Rosen, as a representative of the left lobe of the blogosphere has a tougher row to hoe. The mainstream media have been biased to the left for so long that leftist bloggers just don't have the opportunities to be "watchers", and to feel the outrage at slanted reporting that acts as a hothouse for developing research and writing skills.

3) A note of caution: it would be wrong to assume sinister motives for everyone involved who either disagreed with the newsworthiness of the Jordan story or didn't report on it at all. I can't say why Rush or Drudge ignored the story, but I did email Jack Shafer to ask why he published a story about a Washington DC daily the day before Jordan resigned. His reply, "I thought Mickey [Kaus] was doing such a good job in his column that I'd look like too little too late with my jawing. Also, I was consumed in writing a bigger piece, which posted yesterday." - being deeply involved in a story, as so many bloggers were in this case, can alter one's perspective.

4) It seems that bloggers have developed an adversarial relationship with the mainstream media that parallels the one that so many journalists celebrate having with the government. I think we've swung too far in that direction, just as mainstream reporters have. Jack Shafer wrote The Propaganda President recently in Slate, decrying the lack of access the Bush administration grants mainstream journalists. What Shafer didn't say is that this is a direct result of that adversarial relationship. The same will happen to bloggers with the mainstream media if we become too hostile to them. Some of the victory dances following Jordan's resignation were unseemly. That behavior should be discouraged.