The Self-Correcting Blogosphere

I'm sorry that so many of my posts this weekend seem to be nothing more than blog navel gazing. In my defense, it isn't my blog, I don't blog, so it isn't my navel I'm gazing at.

But let's examine this remark by Hugh Hewitt:

HEWITT: Well, I've been a broadcast journalists for 15 years. I've worked in print and television and radio. And the blogosphere is by far the most accurate and the most objective in terms of accountability. Because the moment you make a mistake, you get jumped on by your colleagues and your adversaries in the blogosphere. Dan Rather got brought down by bloggers.

Did the blogs bring down Dan Rather?  I'd like to think Rather and his reporters played a role in that, as well. Perhaps they highlighted the incompetence of CBS' vetting of the National Guard memos. But let's go to Mr. Hewitt's statement that blogs are more objective and more accurate than radio, television and print and use the "Kerry intern" rumors floated on Drudge as a case study on blog accuracy.

On February 12, 2004 Drudge "reported" that the Dem. primary campaign will be "rocked" by allegations related to a woman who "fled the country."  Instapundit linked to Drudge's allegation, Hugh Hewitt blustered that the media's lack of coverage concerning the allegations was evidence of the MSM's media bias and Powerline even interpreted the woman's lack of comment as a suggestion that there was something to the allegation. One blogger named "Bigwig", a bit aggressive in his determination, even scoured through Kerry's intern photos and identified a woman whose only "relationship" with Mr. Kerry is that she apparently happened to be an intern for Mr. Kerry at one time (even Drudge's report didn't allege an intern, btw) and even attempted to publish her phone number. That blogger's false allegations were spread by Instapundit and disseminated to a wider audience. In fairness to Mr. Reynolds, Mr. Reynolds retracted his link the same evening, after readers suggested he remove the link.

Polier, the woman who was alleged to have been involved with Mr. Kerry, denied the allegations on the 16th of February. In response, Powerline speculated about an (non-existent, apparently) ABC interview and even posted a picture of a woman who was allegedly Ms. Polier (unclear whether she actually was), Instapundit responded with a snarky remark that "I guess that settles it" with a media report concerning the Lewinsky affidavit and Hewitt to my knowledge did not even acknowledge her denial.

So let's do a compare/contrast.

Source of allegation in Rathergate: Memos sent by a disreputable source to CBS, who didn't effectively authenticate the memoranda. Not at all what you want to see from an elite organization.

Source of allegation in the Kerry allegations: A barely-sourced report by a right-wing gossip columnist, who stated that three reporters can vouch that Wesley Clark repeated those allegations off-the-record. To Mr. Reynolds, that would be quadruple hearsay, if not more. The allegations -- along with the woman's name and picture -- were disseminated extensively throughout the blogosphere.

Meaculpa in Rathergate: A public apology by Mr. Rather to his audience and the President for the false report.

Meaculpa in Kerry allegations: None, not to the readers (many of whom presumably were also disappointed and didn't demand an apology) and certainly not to Mr. Kerry.

Remedial steps taken in Rathergate: A well-publicized internal investigation headed by G.H.W.B. confidant which was publicly released.

Remedial steps concerning Kerry allegations: None. Moved on to false allegations concerning the Swiftboats.

It almost goes without saying that the chest-thumping by some right-wing blogs is silly and I can't believe I spent this much time saying the obvious:  the blogosphere is often less objective and less accurate than traditional MSM outlets.