The Blog

Big Media's 40 Days and 40 Nights

Like Noah's flood, the blogosphere is changing everything about the flow of news and information.

11:00 PM, Jan 25, 2005 • By HUGH HEWITT
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SITTING ACROSS from the very pleasant Soledad O'Brien, I got the impression that she had been well briefed and may even have dipped in my new book Blog, but I was certain by interview's end that she was not an enthusiast of the blogosphere. I'd had the same feeling upon completion of a four way conversation on Fox & Friends a couple of hours earlier, though the trio there was just as pleasant and welcoming as Soledad. I was a representative from the Blogger Nation--and a pretty dismal one at that, according to the blogs of the left--and the great fathers and mothers of Big Media would treat me kindly, even indulgently.

So I find myself slipping into deep Noah mode: When interacting with my colleagues in broadcast, I will answer their questions and tell them that the flood is not just coming but has begun. But I do not expect they will believe me.

And I won't be alarmed that they don't. The degree of their understanding doesn't matter a bit.

And why should they believe me? Rather, Kerry, Raines, and Lott blew themselves up, right? If they surf a bit to blogs with comments sections they will find there rabid, vulgar, and profane posters from all across the political spectrum. It is just so . . . raw. It cannot possibly compete with the refinement, and the budgets, of the bigs.

I have stopped trying to define what a blog is, but rather now default to describe what bloggers do: We are cyber sherpas, leading anyone who wants to follow through the mountains of information that accumulate every day to the stuff we think is most important. We give advice. We warn.

We edit.

All of free media on the Internet is our giant wire service, and each day, throughout the day, we provide as many bulletins as we please.

When I first began in television, as the co-host a nightly news and public affairs program in Los Angeles for the local PBS affiliate, I was smitten with the teletype machine that would spit out the wire's version of the world. I'd check it constantly, hoping for a late-breaking story that we'd cover live--and first. It happened occasionally. We were on the air when O.J. went joyriding. We went live a minute after Richard Nixon's death was announced. We were live on most election nights.

The teletype may still be clattering away somewhere, but everyone gets the feed now. In fact, there are millions of feeds. How did you hear that Johnny Carson had died? I got it on JetBlue TV, from Fox, flying on a blizzardy Sunday to keep my date with the cable shows. Had I been on the ground, I am almost certain I would have learned about his passing on the net.

"Breaking" a story is almost certainly a relic of an age gone by, like a classic car that will occasionally still show up on the road. Sure, the Washington Post can "break" the news that the Pentagon is revamping its intelligence operations, but the moment it is in print it has traveled the globe and a thousand or ten thousand commentaries are registering. The Post no more gets to define the significance of that reorganization than I do. Folks who follow such things will pick their own interpreters.

I HAVE TRIED TO STEER my TV interviewers from the political blogs to the business blogs. I jammed in the news that GM's vice-chairman had opened a blog, as had Boeing's vice president for marketing. Why did that matter? They are cutting out the automotive press and the aviation industry scribblers, or if not cutting out, supplementing. They don't have to persuade anyone anymore. Did you see the front page of the New York Times business section this morning? Internet ad space is tight. Very tight. That means a growing market for the blogs. That means revenue.

On the flight back to California, I read the new Joe Klein's "In the Arena" column in Time. "Within moments of Bush's speech," Klein wrote of the Bush Second Inaugural Address, "a conservative blogger found the roots of the President's most distressing image--freedom as a 'fire in the minds of men'" Klein moved quickly on to what he judged to be the portentousness of Bush's borrowing from Dostoyevsky's The Possessed, but never bothered to tell us which blogger had dug up the nugget. So Big Media is now obliged to acknowledge, but determined not to accredit bloggers?

Same flight, but now the Atlantic. Jonathan Rauch: