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The blog new future awaits. John McGinnis posits a world of Blog Dailies. Plus: Teddy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Also: Happy Stein America. A quotable notable. And more.

10.1.04

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QUOTABLE NOTABLE
Being a collector of conservative quotes, it was kinda cool and prescient of Mr. Tyrrell to note in 1992 in his book The Conservative Crack-Up:

"One envisages the news editor just minutes before Dan Rather is to go on the air reviewing the lead story for the CBS Evening News: 'Perfect! Not one word is accurate. Not one statistic is true or informative. We'll go with it! This is news! The illusions of our time remain intact!'"

Megadittoes from Flyover Country,
-- Rick Reuss, P.T.
Madison, Indiana

BLOGORRHEA
Re: Lawrence Henry's What Blogs Can't Do:

As a Free Republic Pajama Person, I claim no desire to take over the responsibility of being a news collector. Are not reporters employed to "report" the news? Thanks to Al Gore's invention of the Internet, we have the resources to analyze and discuss the alpha networks' DNA.

Our existence is the byproduct of the total abuse of mainstream media's own code of ethics. Consider the stain on Monica's blue dress the "shot heard 'round the world!" Until they wise up and report the truth and keep their own political leanings aside, they are going to feel like a naked man at a proctologist's convention.
-- Alan Jackson
Martinez, Georgia

If Lawrence Henry was ever right about blogs, he is already wrong. Many of the leading blogs do have a major beat. Many bloggers do perform significant original fact reporting and investigating. Henry's critique of the blog-as-personal-diary is misplaced because (a) that is not (and never was) the paradigmatic news-related blog and (b) that genre does include some quality journalism. And as for resources, the larger blogs are attracting significant paid advertising.

Lastly, the crack about blatant self-regard among bloggers is silly. The celebration in the blogosphere over Rathergate is far less self-regarding that the corresponding counterwave of pompous Tom Oliphantish prose about just how darn "professional" Old Media folks think themselves to be. Lazy self-regard and arrogant dismissal of criticism is still the province of Old Media. That is the root cause of Rathergate.

Paid journalism and newsgathering will continue but it will have to become more specialized and professional to survive and adapt. When the revolution is complete, the lazy, politicized, liberal-yuppie generalist who today gets to produce lazy formulaic attacks in print and on the air will no longer rise to the status of senior reporter or editor. He or she will be the one at home in pajamas, unpaid and ranting into unvisited cyberspace.
-- George Tobin
North Potomac, Maryland

You gotta be kidding me!

"The public wants to know some certain things on a regular and predictable basis: Whether a storm is coming..." The Weather Channel is available on the Internet, and updated hourly.

"...whether the local schools are open or closed..." Are bloggers rejoicing in their ability to provide this kind of information? If the local radio station goes under due to extreme bias, try calling the school.

"...what time the baseball game comes on..." Satellite and digital TV program guides (electronic and direct mail), TV Guide, and oh yeah, the Internet.

"...where the candidates are..." Do people really need to know where the candidates are faster than it can be posted on the Internet by a blogger?

"...what's happening in Iraq..." Same as above. This is like shooting fish in a barrel.

"...what the government (local, state, national) has got itself up to..." Internet, Internet, Internet.

Is this really the best argument Mr. Henry could give for criticizing the shortcomings of the blogosphere? If so, he's way, way off. If this is all the research and thought necessary to write a column for your website, why aren't I in your paid employ?
-- Brendan R. Merrick
Budd Lake, New Jersey

Bloggers keep the Media honest. That is their role and, so far, they are accomplishing it. Savvy bloggers create a following, carve a niche in the news and pull readers on specific themes eroding complacency from institutional news venues heightening competition, something good by definition.
-- Andrés Lozano

A great article, but please remember this: Several months ago, an NBC news crew posed as Arabs, speaking and behaving like people planning a terrorist attack of some sort by renting a helicopter. Alert personnel at the downtown St. Louis airport called the police, and after being arrested, the NBC crew identified themselves, and admitted they were attempting to create a story to embarrass the homeland security system.

Two points:

1. With mainstream media like NBC (still) attempting to create news, I suggest they should not be replaced. Society does not need "created" news.

2. I am amazed that the individuals involved got off scot free. It's not clear why they were not prosecuted..
-- Rich R.
Ballwin, Missouri

What MSM is Not Doing
"Gee Brain, what are we going to Blog about tonight?"

"Same thing we do every night Pinky, try to rattle their cages."

With due respect to your observations, Mr. Henry, your strategic view of the Blogs is flawed. Yes they are too self-referential right now. Yes they spend a great deal of time ankle biting the Mainstream Media (MSM). But in all fairness step back a minute and take a look at the current state of MSM. For brevity's sake lets concentrate on the print media

The Daily Today
Take your local paper and lay it out on the coffee table. Look at it critically, not as to what is to be read, but its source. You will find:

* A section is generally national/regional news. The source? AP,
Reuters or a reporter from one of the regionals (NYT, WaPo, MiaHld, AJC, LAT). Very little of the content is locally sourced.

* Editorial section. Yes the local editor may have written a piece and does so daily. But if you look at the total column inches provided, most of that too is syndicated -- George Will, Molly Ivins, Pat Buchanan, etc.

* B section is usually Metro and typically is local content for the smaller papers. But out of what is an 8-12 page section if you pull out all the ads column inches you end up with a section that is at best 2 pages of content.

*C & D sections, usually contains classifieds and personal interest
items -- comic strips, Dear Abby, Neal Sperry, weather. Interestingly, nearly all of this content is syndicated. Even the classified section, backbone of the dailies, is being syndicated - Cars.com, Houses.com for example.

The point? Syndication IS the paper now. It is distant, disconnected and lacking in the local content that is the source of your defense of MSM's continued existence.

The Blog of Tomorrow
Some of your observations are valid. Especially the nearly circular cross references that occur on certain topics. Some are not however, your reference to bad archiving in some blogs lacks sincerity considering some papers today do not even maintain a morgue or archive of their papers at all. The best solution would be for Lexis-Nexis to permit Blogs to archive in that system just like MSM. But I think the bigger concern would be to your point Mr. Henry -- "How would the public get their news using a Blog?".

First one must understand an enabling technology - RSS (Really Simple Syndication, natch). Details can be found here. Using this Internet tool, a provider can publish the XML content as a presentation or "feed" to other websites to pick up. The consumer of such a feed can fine-tune the presentation and desired content. This is how portal sites like Yahoo, Google and some online dailies operate, and how personalization to the end-user is accomplished.

Let's assume Mr. Pleszczynski, editor of this fine online publication, was told to take it mainstream. How might he accomplish it? In the near term just like MSM does it today, syndication. Use AP and Reuters for National content, Take feeds from Townhall and -- gasp -- The Nation for editorial content. Bring in the syndicated Section C content for the personal interest items. One achieves relatively painlessly a facsimile of an online edition of any major daily today. The fly in this soup is that it depends on using MSM sources for content, and your argument of course is if those source were not there wither the Blogs?

Longer term where would the news come from? Mr. Henry, reporters are like most of us, they are fond of eating on a regular basis. Lacking regular employment, might not some of the better reporters do exactly what you lament and develop blogs that specialize in certain areas? They just cover the beat in a different venue. Others develop blogs based on certain levels of expertise -- lawyers, accounting, certain hobbies, entertainment, etc. As a microcosm consider the coverage that came out of Blogs covering the Florida hurricane season. I was able to get first person accounts with video in the effected areas as the events unfolded. How is this kind of stand up piece any different from having Geraldo Rivera doing the same thing?

So a future Blogpaper might look something like the following:

* A DrudgeReport lead in page covering national events. Coverage and feeds coming from folks like the PowerLine blog (Yes, Virginia, they covered the Republican National Convention), Hugh Hewitt (ditto), and prominent reporters who make the online transition, e.g. Mark Steyn.

* Second page, as a personalized venue for that particular reader, would include the particular comics of interest to them, interested hobbies, integrated weather coming from WeatherBug or WeatherChannel for your zipcode.

* Classifieds are provided as links from sources like eBay, Cars.com,
Houses.com, and feeds from your local Greensheet publisher.

* Editorial page, would be something you may not have existed before. Prominent blogs could lead in a point-counter point style major topics of the day. Coverage in depth down to the smallest superscripted point of type on the issue. All the cross references in detail and in near real time.

The biggest kicker to all of this is with Internet technology you could scan this "paper" in the morning and be prompted throughout the day to major changes as they occur. In real time and of only those topics that are of interest to the reader.

The Struggle Ahead
Mr. Henry, your last objection is revenue management and sourcing. Essentially who pays for the staff to produce the story? But first let's assess where we are. For MSM print that involves rotary presses in the millions of dollars, production staff, distribution, retailing, let alone the reporting staff. The asset base per consumer is extremely high and as a consequence the revenue demand is also high. Now contrast that with a Blog site. You need a server, bandwidth, software tools. Costs are in the thousands of dollars, an order of magnitude less than MSM. Reporting staff and production staff are merged. Retailing is self-distribution.

What is happening is a supply chain collapse of news. As a consequence the revenue stream needed to support Blogging is inherently less than MSM. That presents a potential change in how it is funded. And how is that? Subscription maybe one way, though as a vehicle, Internet subscriptions have had limited success. Advertising of course is another avenue but is still embryonic in comparison to MSM. A reasonable impediment is a good measure of site views so that an advertiser can assess the equivalent of the rate card in the old print media. Further assessments are value of click thru rates based on the advertisers message. But the most likely vehicle is on page advertising.

Finally, how would a Mark Steyn be paid as an outside consultant/pundit? Possibly by syndication as is done today. Another might be micropayments based on click thru to articles. But it is unproven in the world of news. The payer of course would be the source Blog. Change will occur of course but there are avenues to pay for the digital content of an online Blog.

Conclusion
The issue Mr. Henry is not how but when. Look at the MSM dailies. All of them are operating on thin to nonexistent margins; hence the outbreak of fraud committed in an attempt to prop up ad revenue rates. NYT has had a 50% drop in stock price over the last 6 months and has just announced a downward dividend adjustment to stockholders. The point is many of the current dailies are on their way out as a going concern.

With lower cost structures, faster delivery, ability to rapidly assess content the Blogs are here to stay. The Blogs as Open Source Journalism will become the future of reporting. With a low barrier to entry the best and brightest (and the worst and dumbest as well) will forge documentation online. Alliances will be built. In an effort to maintain speed of delivery, new modes of operations between alliances, provider, freelancer and consumer will be designed. Blogs will prosper and supplant pulp news organizations. Those MSM dailies that wakeup and transition online will survive, the rest will perish.
-- John McGinnis
Arlington, Texas

I couldn't even finish the article "What Blogs Can't Do."
What a stupid notion that Bloggers want the demise of mainstream media. What we (the people... I'm not a blogger) want is a media worthy of the First Amendment. The media is given such rich freedom because it has a responsibility to the public. I believe the people are weary of what the media has allowed itself to become, a battleground between truth and lies and the lies take the day. We have been force-fed lies for so long, this little victory over Dan (and yes, he should be mercilessly crucified for all the damage he has done and the lives he has destroyed ) is merely a slightly satisfying breeze in a long hot desert of media filth.

We want and need the media, YES. But not a media controlled by ideologues who oppose every vestige of Western culture. Report the news. If I want to tune into satyr or comedy or commentary, I will. But don't feed me [garbage] in the name of objectivity.
-- John

Blogs are an "addition to," not an "instead of." As in television is an addition to movies. Radio is in addition to newspapers. Prowler is in addition to print magazine.

I say "welcome aboard" to all.
-- Annette Cwik

HOT TEDDY
Re: Shawn Macomber's The Ted and the Fury:

Ted Kennedy has been the long-standing litmus test for the sanity of the Democratic Party. I was a staunch Democrat until I began to parse the rantings of this gaseous slug. Try this: Quote a few of Ted's comments to staunch Democrats and watch them either tell you that he doesn't really mean that, and that it is only rhetoric, or that he is correct in his beliefs. This is how you tell if your Democrat friends are true believers, or are just too entrenched in the liberal mind set to investigate the issues with an open mind. At this point in the conversation, I usually tell them that I did not leave the Democratic Party, rather, it left me just as it did all of us who grew to adulthood in the '60s and regret having subscribed to many of the harmful movements of that era. When talking to anyone in my age bracket (50 to 60), I am immediately put on Red Alert by anyone who says that he or she wouldn't change a thing if the chance came about to grow up all over again.
-- Joseph Baum
Newton Falls, Ohio

Mr. Macomber observes:

"Mainstream media coverage of Kennedy's speech treated it as a reasonable treatise. In an interview on CNN hours later with Judy Woodruff, Kennedy was allowed to repeat all the major points of his speech with only minor challenge. He was not questioned about his angry tone or any of the more absurdist, fanatical rhetoric, which at any rate was conveniently left out of the evening newscasts."

I, too, am amazed that the MSM allow Kennedy such latitude. They remind me of parents who indulge a small child who throws tantrums, and pretend not to notice as he kicks and screams on the floor, mindless of the discomfort of others. Everything is permitted by the young heir. But maybe a better comparison is with the drunken old uncle who possesses the family fortune, whose behavior ought to embarrass but does not.
-- John Schuh
Lake Dallas, Texas

It is comical that Ted Kennedy should make a statement like he did about "thanking God that President Bush was not our President at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis." His own brother handled that crisis much the same as President Bush has handled Iraq. A quick comparison of the facts of each case easily shows that Teddy has no idea what he is talking about, which is of course nothing new. Soviet Union had never overtly attacked U.S. Also the U.S. had provided assistance to dissidents to try and overthrow the Cuban government. This provided the Soviet Union an excuse for installing nuclear missiles, which could have struck U.S. cities in 10 to 15 minutes, in the first place. (Though this was only an excuse. The real reason for the Soviet deployment of these missiles was a quick fix to address a weakness in the Soviets' ability to counter an existing U.S. advantage in nuclear capability.) The Soviet Union was basically installing the same kind of missiles the U.S. already had in service in Turkey for some time. However, because it was not acceptable to allow the possibility of a "First Strike Capability," Kennedy started a "Quarantine" (actually a Blockade which is an act of war) and was within 24 to 48 hours of launching a pre-emptive invasion of Cuba, had the Soviet Union not backed down and withdrew the missiles.

Note here these actions were taken WITHOUT asking for the permission or consent of the U.N. Such an invasion would likely have started WWIII, since military personnel from Soviet Union would have become causalities in any attack on the missile sites being constructed, and the fact that the missiles were still the property of the Soviet Union. We also now know that the Soviet forces in Cuba had tactical nuclear weapons available (which we didn't know at the time; talk about a catastrophic intelligence failure) and could very possibly, even likely, have been used on any invasion force. For his actions, Kennedy was hailed by the entire country and much of the world as a hero for taking a stand to prevent, what some considered, a threat to the United States.

Contrast this with the issue of Iraq, which could easily be argued to have even more of a reason for taking action. The United States has been attacked by terrorists. Iraq has shown it was willing to support such terrorists, and that it was also willing to defy the world (U.N.) in not cooperating to ensure it did not possess weapons of mass destruction. The cost of not taking action in the case of Iraq could not come close to the possible consequences of a nuclear attack on the United States from missiles in Cuba. However, the actual chances of an attack from weapons of mass destruction from terrorists are immensely more possible, and likely, than the use of the missiles based in Cuba. After all the Soviet Union was led by people who wanted to stay alive and in power, not by people who think that dying a martyr's death is an automatic ticket to paradise. However, President Bush is seen as a villain by some for taking the same decisive actions Kennedy did. It is also interesting to note that President Kennedy is often revered, by these same activists, as an idealist and hero for his ideas and actions in creating the so-called "Camelot' administration. Yet he took the world to the brink of Nuclear War because he was not willing to accept the POSSIBILITY of a first strike to exist. This, even though we had never been attacked or even overtly threatened with attack. Remember these missiles were supposedly for the "defense" of Cuba from invasion.
-- Tracy Welch, Lt Col USAF Ret
Alexandria, Virginia

MANILA MATTERED
Re: William Tucker's Who Says We Lost in Vietnam?:

Mr. Tucker is on the mark. Also, I recall reading several years ago that Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines put down a Communist uprising in about 1965. The article that I read in the Wall Street Journal took the position that Marcos could not have stopped the Communists without the U. S. Army being a short distance away in Vietnam. Army units could have easily been diverted to the Philippine Islands to assist the government there in its efforts to stop the rebellion. Marcos was terribly flawed as a leader, but he did allow democracy to flourish. In fact, the Philippines have had a viable democracy for many years. It has had problems but things are a lot better there without a Communist government.
-- Don McFall
Houston, Texas

HAPPY STEIN COUNTRY
Re: Ben Stein's Happy Bush Country:

I have read all of his books and know that not only is he a brilliant man, but a very good writer. But I just read his column "Happy Bush Country" and found myself beaming. This is one of the most beautiful things, and most true, that I have ever read. While I am currently attending law school at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, I am originally from a town much like the ones Mr. Stein mentions.

To see what millions of people like myself and the folks I grew up with feel about our country put so wonderfully into words was magnificent. This is exactly what more people need to hear. Sure, there are problems in this nation, but as President Reagan often said the United States is indeed a "Shining City on a Hill".

I pray every night that President Bush gets elected, not because he is the "chosen one" or anything like that, but he just gets "it." He understands what it is like to struggle with decisions and to act with conviction...not in accordance with polls. He is a strong leader and has a deep love of this country and understands that with our exalted place in the world comes a responsibility to help others.

I implore you all at the Spectator to keep going strong. You are doing good work and fighting the good fight. While I doubt you ever do, don't let the naysayers and the complainers get you down. This is a great country and most people, as this column described, believe in this country with all of their hearts.

I thank you for uplifting my spirits today and wish you all the best,
-- Eric Wright

SPOTTED HOWLS
Re: Editor's Desk E-bay New Soldier offer:

Fellow Spectators and Spectatorettes: For those of you interested in the John Kerry book "The Winter Soldier," rather than paying some exorbitant price on E-Bay for this piece of political excreta, go to the following

The book in its entirety can be found there, courtesy of a 527 group by the same name. No one who reads this manuscript can possibly come away with any other feeling other than that of revulsion at the political machinations of this man. Between this book and Unfit For Command, I can not see how ANYONE can possibly support the good Senator. There are those who will claim that he has changed in the 30+ years since Vietnam and his antiwar maneuvers at that time, but I can readily point to the time-worn commentary, "A leopard never changes his spots."
-- Jim Bjaloncik
Stow, Ohio

BABY, COME BACK
Where is the Prowler? It's the best read on the Internet and it's been MIA for the last two weeks. I'm dying out here...in California, actually -- the Bay Area, specifically -- in Pete Stark's district! Believe me, I need something juicy and informed every day to survive.
-- Carol McIlwain


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