“The Beltway-Blog Battle”

Writing in Time Magazine, James Poniewozek has an interesting take (The Beltway-Blog Battle) on the passing of Tim Russert.

"…the press lost its most authoritative mass-market journalist, just as it is losing its authority and its mass market."

The New Meida vs. Old Media argument got tiresome a long time ago, but Mr. Poniewozek offers a fresh take. A few paragraphs to wet your whistle:

"In their original division of labor, the old media broke news while the blogs dispensed opinion. But look at two of the biggest stories of the Democratic primary: Barack Obama’s comments that working-class voters are "bitter" and Bill Clinton’s rope-line rant that a reporter who profiled him was a "scumbag." Both were broken by a volunteer for the Huffington Post website, Mayhill Fowler.

Traditional reporters were aghast at Fowler’s methods–the Obama meeting was closed to press (she got in as a donor), and Fowler did not identify herself when speaking to Clinton. But mainstream media had no problem treating the scoops as big news; if she had overheard both quotes in the same way but told them to a newspaper instead of publishing them, that would have been considered a coup.

The case against Fowler, in other words, was about process and credentials, not content. If sources stop trusting us, reporters asked, how will we do our jobs? But however sneaky her methods, Fowler’s stories prove that one reason sites like Huffington have an audience is the perception that Establishment journalism has gotten better at serving its powerful sources than its public. Fiascoes like the Iraq-WMD reporting gave many the impression that the old rules mainly protect consultant-cosseted public officials who need protection least."

[For more on the Mayhill Fowler story, here’s a bit of audio with Arianna Huffington, speaking at Guardian News & Media’s internal Future of Journalism event on 18th June 2008.]

Mr. Poniewozik poses this rather rude question regarding MSM: "…if 3 million people read Drudge and 65,000 read the New Republic, which is mainstream?"