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Coming to grips with the blogosphere



Opinions count in the age of the Web

Back in the days when Monica Lewinsky was just another intern and a woman with questionable ties to the president, an angry man with a website did a little investigative journalism into the precise nature of her relationship with President Bill Clinton. What followed was a witch hunt, followed by lurid impeachment proceedings that may well have changed the face of America for decades. Without Clinton’s impeachment and the Republicans’ pledge to restore the dignity of the White House, Gore might have won a landslide in 1998 and could still be in power today.

Of course Matt Drudge (www.drudgereport.com) isn’t always right. And he sure as hell isn’t balanced in the stories he writes or the links to stories he puts on his site.

But that’s kind of the point of the Web log, or blog as they’ve come to be known.

Blogs and the blogosphere are huge these days, as more and more people turn away from conventional news organizations to a series of websites that probably once originated in someone’s parents’ basement.

There may be close to three million blogs out there, although likely only a few hundred are any good, and maybe a few dozen are actually doing real journalism. The crème de la crème of these blogs are turning news institutions on their ears.

The impact is incredible. When Michael Moore makes a movie, conservative bloggers critical of Moore dissect the facts in those movies one by one. When President Bush makes a speech, liberal bloggers rip each speech apart by comparing the rhetoric to the fact. Some bloggers conduct real investigations, and through research and a little technical savvy have broken some of the biggest stories of the last few years. Some bloggers, like Iraqi Salam Pax, gave the world an on-the-ground account of the Iraq war during the coalition invasion that millions read on a daily basis. Resentful of the U.S., but glad to get rid of Saddam, Pax’s blog entries probably summed up the feelings of most Iraqi’s.

The media, afraid of losing influence or having its expertise or status questioned by a network of armchair reporters, has struck back. Instead of investigating the serious claims made by bloggers, news organizations have instead produced scathing attacks of blogs and blogging technology – their lack of accountability, the biased reporting, the irresponsible use and interpretation of facts.

But for all their bluster, blogs are bigger than ever. Some blogs have proven themselves to be right, time after time, and have criticized the media for not doing its job. If the media still conducted real investigations instead of the "he said/she said" stories that pass for journalism these days, bloggers argue, then blogs wouldn’t be necessary.

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