Blogs Look Burly after Kicking Sand on CBS ; Bloggers Enjoy a Moment of Glory after Pooling Their Expertise to Uncover the Truth about the Forged Memos on Bush's Service Record

By Stephen Humphries writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 22, 2004 | Go to article overview

Blogs Look Burly after Kicking Sand on CBS ; Bloggers Enjoy a Moment of Glory after Pooling Their Expertise to Uncover the Truth about the Forged Memos on Bush's Service Record


Stephen Humphries writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


Scott Johnson took a bite out of CBS's "60 Minutes II" and came away with 15 minutes of fame.

Mr. Johnson, a Minneapolis lawyer with a political website called Power Line, proved to be instrumental in challenging the authenticity of documents CBS used to impugn George W. Bush's record in the National Guard.

On Sept. 9, the morning after CBS aired its report about Mr. Bush, Johnson updated his blog with comments from readers who believed that the documents - allegedly written 32 years ago - were forgeries. Questioning everything from the memos' military jargon to whether a 1970s typewriter could have produced the "proportionally spaced fonts" on the documents, the blog (short for web log) soon drew the attention of other bloggers - and the mainstream media.

Twelve days later, after intense research by print and TV journalists, CBS conceded that it couldn't vouch for the documents' authenticity.

Its Monday admission deals a blow to the credibility of CBS News and anchor Dan Rather, who had defended his "60 Minutes II" report. But the episode has jolted the media establishment in another way: It served notice that there's an aggressive new watchdog in town, in the form of thousands of bloggers willing - even eager - to question, nitpick, or attack reports in the mainstream media.

For the most part, political blogs act as forums for armchair pundits to deliver often-partisan commentary. But because blogs link to one another with comments and feedback, the buzz around one story can attract the attention of hundreds of thousands of blog readers, who in turn can offer "on the spot" knowledge or expertise. In the CBS case, bloggers raised the initial doubts, analyzed each new wrinkle, and occasionally did original reporting, scooping the professionals.

"What this story illustrates is the power of the blogs as a medium for the transmission of information," says Johnson, who can now claim to have made the cover of this week's Time magazine - if only because the back of his head is visible in a photo collage featuring Mr. Rather.

"My efforts were to act as a clearinghouse for the circulation of information," which was then subjected to confirmation, he says.

To some, that's hardly a viable journalistic standard.

"We can't be too quick to equate the bona fides and journalistic chops of a blogger with that of any mainstream media organization," says Christopher Klein, a former executive vice president of CBS News. "The bloggers do not have any system of checks and balances. My issue is simply when we start elevating these journals of opinion to the level of newspapers of record, so to speak."

Other critics have complained that blogs can traffic in rumor, such as a claim in February that Sen. John Kerry had had an affair with a former intern.

Responding to the criticism, Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee behind the Instapundit blog, says the online community acts as its own ombudsman to sift fact from allegation.

"The check on blogs is other blogs," he says. "Because blogs operate in a reputation-based environment, nobody minds a bias. But they expect you to be honest about your facts. And if you get a reputation for not being honest about your facts, people pay lots of attention to you."

Since the CBS furor, the blogging community has been showered with accolades in opinion pages and editorials. Still, it's premature to start awarding Pulitzer prizes to the laptop set. Professional journalists have been the ones consulting experts and following up promising leads.

"I would argue that we were able to do a few things that blogs were not," avers Christopher Isham, chief of investigative projects at ABC News, one of the first news outlets to challenge CBS's documents.

Still, a perception exists among some bloggers - and among many news consumers - that without blogs the media wouldn't have picked up the story. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Blogs Look Burly after Kicking Sand on CBS ; Bloggers Enjoy a Moment of Glory after Pooling Their Expertise to Uncover the Truth about the Forged Memos on Bush's Service Record
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.