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« The 'Yahoo Problem' and a Solution | Main | Open Thread »

January 12, 2005


Daniel Conover

Bloggers *appeared* to drive the Memogate/Rathergate scandal, but let's slow down before we assign credit for this to grassroots journalism. Things are not always as they appear. Where did these "bloggers" get their detailed information? How did they get it so fast?

Grassroots journalism is a good thing, but I'm not convinced that's what we saw here. From where I'm standing, Memogate looks like a honeypot operation that preyed upon the short-sighted hubris of CBS and used blogs to deliver the kill shot.

The Drudge Report is a blog, too, but I wouldn't call it grassroots journalism.


I think NBC reared its head after the Kevinsites debacle/report, and got it right!! They permited Kevin to blog "Openletter to the Devil Dogs of 3.1"

CBS on the other hand is still yet to understand. The Rathergate affair just show's these facts.

As a blogger, GrassRoot level, independent think tank, all I have to say is that the burdens of blogging, as you so well know, are unforgiving for all of us. Lets face this fact and continue in best efforts forward. Someday the mainstream media will get it. Albiet hopefully, when its not too late !!

Tony Steidler-Dennison

Two things are at work with CBS and Big Media, in general, that others have commented about.

There's the "ivory tower" in which the large media conglomerates have lived for decades. They're structured from the ground up to tell us what the news is in a one-way manner. That often comes in the form of an antiquated notion of journalistic integrity - a notion of distance - that, by its very nature, segregates the reporters from the reportees. The truth is, that's a very comfortable position. In some ways, it seems to mitigate the very integrity upon which it's founded, because it eliminates any external checks and balances on the quality of the reporting.

CBS and the other large media outlets also suffer from the "monos." There's a unifying theme between monoliths and monopolies, that being that they start with one. Until the tools for blogging and networked communication kicked the doors open for anyone to publicly analyze world events, big media was both monolith and monopoly. In a comment on baseball on my blog, I wrote, "Monopolies are monoliths, simply because they can be. They don't have to move and flex, so they don't." You can bet that CBS and the other big media outlets will hold onto that inertia for as long as possible by dismissing and discrediting the only movement that can unseat them - the movement of citizen journalists on the Web. When it comes to critical analysis of the events of the day, we're already doing it far better than the institutions.

We have to stay after them. Thanks for taking a lead in this, Dan.

Anspar Jonte

The only things CBS is guilty of is poor research and over confidence in its story. The blogging community seems to be assuming guilt without proof. Even the TV pundits accuse CBS of "poor journalism." Note that they're not saying the documents were forged, because no one knows that.

I'm not sure that CBS should thank the bloggers, because for every valid question raised, there were ten red herrings. That kind of FUD is easy to stir up about any piece of reporting. To thank a mob for shouting garbage is silly. Sure, I suppose CBS could pick out one or two people and cite them in the corrective follow-up report. But thank? Come on Dan, you've worked in the media. Since when do news organizations thank people? They simply cite the source providing the corrected information.

Felicia Krippet

Each day, the Drudge Report receives hundreds of thousands of unsolicited tips on its website, tens of thousands of pieces of email, and hundreds of tips from resourceful sources. The site breaks stories, often cracking embargoes that tie the hands of the MSM.

How is this not the pinnacle of citizen journalism?

Hunter McDaniel

Daniel, I don't understand your 'honeypot' theory. CBS does not dispute the fact that the documents came from Burkett - are you suggesting that he was a Karl Rove plant, masquerading as a Bush-hater for years in order to build cred? And if Burkett really did get the documents from someone else (and not a space alien) don't you think he would have some interest in helping finger the source that burned him?

Felicia Krippet

To those defending CBS, I put the following question:

What kind of evidence would have proven definitively that CBS was guilty of political bias in this case?

Are you satisfied that the panel looked for such evidence, applied the right standard, and failed to find animus against Bush?



I am a very big fan. I have a couple concerns now:

1. You have fellow 'professional grassroots journalists' typing professional opinions in your "grassroots" journal. - alias Tony

2. This blog could be seen as a blatent attempt to undermine professional journalism to promote your view of the future of news. It seems like somehow it's a conflict of interest which I cannot fully express in an elequent way (as i'm not a professional writer).

3. I do miss the malformed sentences, the blabber, and the stupid opinions of your average reader at the Mecury. Every comment here seems polished and professional. I don't know why that disturbs me, but it does.

I'll keep an eye on ya for a while. Polished prose gets boring, I like hearing from real people.


Professional journalists need professional editors.

If anything, the CBS debacle proved this. Their editing got unprofessional and they got burned.

Blogs are great -- at acting as pointers to mainstream journalism.


"What kind of evidence would have proven definitively that CBS was guilty of political bias in this case?"

Interesting question Felicia, thanks for bringing it up - although "definitive" is a very tough word, and in life we usually go with standards of evidence far less than this because otherwise the requirements are so stringent that we'd decide nothing.

I'd compare their treatment of similarly-egregious actions between presidencies; if on average Repubs get harsher treatment for the same action, this would suggest liberal bias.

(I'm not a CBS attacker or defender, just intrigued by the question and trying to take a scientific approach like Philip Meyer said we should)


Jim: "blatant attempt to undermine professional journalism to promote [Dan's] view of the future of news"
Jim, you're all wrong. Dan is doing the Jay Rosen thing and giving us enough rope to hang ourselves and each other. The "throw all the bums out" sentiment is not something I've heard expressed by Mr. Gillmor, and it _would_ be a disaster. Symbiosis is the way of the future.

Example, BTW - new friend of mine said yesterday of some egregious small-town-monopoly-paper reporting, "what really opened my eyes was coming to realize that there was NO RECOURSE to any higher authority" - the paper's mgmt could do and say what they wanted, because they were the only game in town.
And, of course, no ombudsman.
Try to fix a situation like that without blogs.


Steve: grassroots journalists need _access_ to editors, all too frequently I write something and then realize how it could be misinterpreted and wish I had some oversight. Right now there's no market in place to provide it.


"Example, BTW..."
to clarify- I meant "an example of why, even though mainstream journalism has well developed (if not always executed) journalistic standards and serves us far better than bloggers alone would do, we still need grassroots journalism too because otherwise there's nobody watching the watchers"



I'm curious, are you affiliated with

Is this site created by professional bloggers for professional bloggers?

i need to know.


Jim -

Yes, I am the proprietor of

"by professional bloggers for professional bloggers"?

No, although I'm not sure what a "professional blogger" is (except, not me) - I have a completely different day job, and no blog funding or any prospect (or real intention) thereof.

how come?

Tony Steidler-Dennison


> 1. You have fellow 'professional grassroots journalists' typing professional opinions in your "grassroots" journal. - alias Tony

I guess I'm a bit flattered by that. I'm a writer, but not a journalist. Most of the time, I'm a Linux systems engineer with a large aviation company in Iowa. Some of the time, I write books about Linux. I blog an even smaller chunk of the time. Like Anna, I certainly don't have any funding for my blog writing - thus the Amazon items in the sidebar on my site. Actually, I'd be happy just to make back the cost of the annual Typepad subscription. And, believe me, the tech book publishing game isn't going to provide retirement money.

> 2. This blog could be seen as a blatent attempt to undermine professional journalism to promote your view of the future of news. It seems like somehow it's a conflict of interest which I cannot fully express in an elequent way (as i'm not a professional writer).

If Dan's readers happen to share his view of the future of news, I don't really see the conflict of interest. And, people who disagree with that view are given equal opportunity here to express that disagreement. It's a discussion.

> Polished prose gets boring, I like hearing from real people.

I agree with you on this, to a point. Personally, polishing the prose forces me to think through the argument I'd like to make. There are plenty of places for slapdash, one-off comments - God knows, I've left a wide swath of them across the 'Net over the years. But the site and the issue of connected media seem to be worthy of taking the time to make a reasoned and reasonably eloquent argument. That's just my personal take.

I'd disagree strongly with your premise that real people don't write polished prose.


Professional journalists are human, and make mistakes. Networks and newspapers are led and made up of humans, who make mistakes. A high-performing organization tests facts and ideas in an environment of collaboration to allow people to complement one another, minimizing the likelihood that a mistake will survive the vetting process. Bureaucracies don't tend to be high-performing organizations, and mistakes survive, even multiply, because of bureaucratic inefficiency. CBS is a bureaucracy.

However, we must remember that bloggers are also human, and even a bloggroup (or whatever the collective name is for bunches of bloggers) is subject to the same individual and group dysfunction as any other environment. Technology enables many new approaches, but doesn't counteract human shortcomings; if anything, it accelerates the pace of transmission of both good and bad information. Your persistent troll was a blogger, Dan, but your assessment of his credibility would hardly reflect the halo of righteousness some bloggers assume.

Blogging is like telephoning and email...a technical advance for transmission of ideas, feelings, facts and myths. Nothing replaces old fashioned common sense, skepticism, wisdom and diligence as tools for good reporting

Daniel Conover

I have zero proof that Memogate was a honeypot and offer it merely as skeptical opinion. In my view everything about the story reeks of "spookworld," and once you trace a story into that fog, you just never know what to trust. Everything in spookworld is suspect, even the truth. How would you ever prove it?

I believe the simple question "Who benefits most?" remains a good guide to evaluating information. But the answer to that question isn't necessarily the truth -- it's just there to inform you in making your decisions. Given that the Palast story had already established the damning facts, the effect of the bogus documents (and the highly suspect one-day turn-around via blog) gives me pause.

As for Rove, there is at least the claim of a precedent. James Hatfield's book "Fortunate Son" included the allegation that W was arrested for cocaine posession. Immediately after the book's release, word surfaced that Hatfield had a prior conviction for conspriracy to commit murder. The publisher pulled the book off the shelves and Hatfield was discredited by virtue of his record. According to Hatfield, the cocaine documentation came late in the process of writing the book and was provided by Karl Rove.

The Hatfield annecdote is not proven. Even if it were, it wouldn't prove that Rove was behind the fake memos. However, an editor would have been wise to consider that possibility in assemblying this story.

citizen journalists should consider such things as well. if you've never been manipulated as a news provider (and i feel that i have been), then let me testify: it really sucks.

Daniel Conover

and re: Matt Drudge.

by his own words, the stuff Drudge puts up is about 80 percent accurate.

in the discussion of journalistic accuracy, let's not lose sight of the goal: 80 percent just doesn't cut it. we need factual accuracy that routinely approaches 100 percent. the discussion should be about the context, completeness and relevancy of those facts.

the other point: Drudge has been used by parties with political agendas to put out information of dubious quality. Sometimes this is just to divert attention from another story in the news cycle, but often it is to smear a public figure with facts that, upon reflection, fail to meet any credible standard of fairness.

it is a lucrative function. drudge claims income of more than $1 million from his web endeavors. there is always money to be made from the propagandists, and little to be made from unpopular truth.


Its interesting to boot, that even the US department of justice actually twists and turns with facts.. lets take the CIA "operative" Valerie Plame and columnist Robert D. Novak who spilled the name !!

Why is the US-DOJ trying to indict the reporter ? Its because was embrassed !!

What are the the facts of this case (remember the 1st amendment is at task here !!) The 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, is being abused. The authors of this act, give then opinions "The special prosecutor and reporters should ask Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, who is overseeing the grand jury, to conduct a hearing to require the CIA to identify all affirmative measures it was taking to shield Plame's identity. Before we even think about sending reporters to prison for doing their jobs, the court should determine that all the elements of a crime are present. "

So who is going to threash the Government for misbehaving. abusing and very close to conducting treason themselves eh ?? Its only the people who opt to build a voice.. this joint voice can be, and has proven to be, a good force that can't be ignored and thats GRASSROOT level voices, either thru blogs or webpages or whatever media one takes it too !!

The 1st amendment is at stake. Memogate, Rathergate etc etc just a small peice of the pie !!

Felicia Krippet

Daniel, you miss the POINT of what Drudge is doing, and this offers an important lesson for citizen journalists everywhere:

Drudge is breaking news without filtration.

He offers us a glimpse at the "raw intelligence" that's circulating around the newsrooms of the MSM, before "checks and balances" vet the material for accuracy and ... something more, like political correctness, or "fit" with the leftist political narrative?

That's the key. The MSM is not filtering only upon "accuracy" but something more, something insidious and political, and at critical junctures in our Democracy, the MSM seeks to alter outcomes and undermine our political freedoms, as was the case with the "MemoGate" fraud perpetrated by CBS.

Drudge, and more recently leading right-of-center blogs like and , have provided us the raw data, and elucidated the outrageous political bias in the filtration of the MSM.

Where Drudge is inaccurate, he has a good track record of correcting himself (openly) even BEFORE the "news" in question has hit the MSM. No multi-month "panel" required.

Felicia Krippet

The same MSM that remains agnostic about whether the CBS memos were fakes hesitated __not an instant__ to declare LIES all of the eyewitness testimony by the Swift Boat Veterans against Kerry.

Fair and balanced?

Daniel Conover

point taken about raw intelligence, felicia.

i'm obviously ambivalent about the way matt drudge has been used to manipulate the MSM, but the consensus censorship that can take place within the MSM is creepy, too.

but comparing the Rathergate "investigation" to the MSM attitude toward correction is a red herring, at least toward the print media, which tends to get really anal about corrections.
broadcast (tv and radio) is sloppier all the way around, and citizen journalists each have their own policies about corrections. the cbs investigation was a piece of PR cover.

as for the "outrageous political bias in the filtration of the MSM," etc., no sale: the overall MSM bias is toward conventional wisdom, the status quo and profit.

Felicia Krippet

No sale? ROFL.

As a thought exercise, those left of center should consider a world wherein the MSM converged around the point of view represented by Fox, or skewed further toward Rush Limbaugh.

I figure those left of center would scream bloody murder, compared to the muted but consistent voices heard in the real world from the right side of the aisle.

Consider the "shriek" quotient of the rhetoric from the left whenver any voice in the MSM diverges from the liberal consensus on issues of race, economic justice, abortion, Iraq, "denial" of the right to vote, immigration, censorship of obscene content on our airwaves, profiling of Muslim Americans and tourists.

In the world of such a thought experiment, with a rightward-leaning MSM, very indication suggests we'd see a swift escalation by leftists to violent protest or worse.

Phil Wolff

The one television show that really understood audience participation? America's Most Wanted They showed criminals, stood by the hotlines for results, then shared the good news with the audience. The show would have been worthless without that closed loop of communication and participation.

Imagine if 60 Minutes put out alerts to the public asking for help ("Call our 800 number if you worked with George Bush in Georgia") or offering rewards ("$5000 for a video of toxic dumping").


will the people who only see money or the people who still believe in journalism win? that's the question. here's to those of us formulating an answer...

as for big media, there's no (big) money (yet) in citizen journalism so it's not too important to most. sad, but true.



It is richly ironic, is it not, that Rather seems to regard all bloggers as enemies. That seems to inform his attitude toward all of this. He obviously doesn't read blogs or understand that they are not a monolith. Nor does he realize that there are plenty of people out here among the great unwashed who can think and draw their own conclusions and demand a more complete report than the kinds he is used to, where the conclusions are made first and the evidence marshalled second and editing means deciding what the people should think.

All this proves is that America is still market driven, despite the aberrations. Roger Ailes and Rush Limbaugh tapped a huge market for opinion that was being ignored by the "savvy" media. Then Fox News did the same, and when blogging emerged it was instantly recognized by a lot of smart people as the way the audience could talk back and show the bias they knew was there. Most of them know how to find things on the Internet.

Ken Layne made this point graphicly early on: "It's a bit of Scottish folk wisdom: "We can fact-check your ass!"

It was apparent from Mary Mapes' response that she had planned her defense early on, i.e. claiming that the documents couldn't be authenticated or proven or false because they were copies of copies and then faxed. If she'd been smarter she'd have realized that wouldn't work. I suspect that she had more than a hint that she would get something that had been dummied up and she didn't care. Of course, you can't prove that, but is her version, that she was victim, really believable?

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