. . . Tuesday October 26, 2004

Of Blogs, Pinatas and Other Missing Explosives

I recently received an email requesting an interview regarding the role of blogs in this year’s election. The main question was whether or not there were any political season stories other than the CBS memo that were greatly impacted by blogs. The answer: A lot.

Now I’ll be brief here because nothing to me is less interesting than the masturbatory public practice of bloggers blogging about blogs. But this is really about the media, politics and the speed of the new news cycle.

On Monday, the NY Times broke a story about missing munitions in Iraq. The news spread like wildfire. It busted open the side of the Bush spin pinata.

But then, less than a day after the story broke, Drudge reported that the story was actually a hit job designed by CBS (in cahoots with the NY Times?). Drudge also in indicated that the story was old and that NBC news had reported that the munitions facility was actually empty by the time the first U.S. soldiers arrived at the site (they weren’t actually the first soldiers there and they didn’t search the site at all, but anyway…). As soon as Drudge made this claim, the Bush team began to change their responses to questions about the munitions story and suggested it all amounted to nothing.

Then the nonstory angle went mainstream. CNN reported that the explosives could not be found when the first U.S. troops arrived on the scene. This was the top story on the CNN web site when I went to bed at about 3:00 AM. CNN quoted the NBC story. Interestingly, the MSNBC site did not feature the story.

By this morning, the CNN story was nowhere to be found on their front page. And Josh Marshall (who has been on top of this story from the start) reported the various problems with the Drudge/NBC/CNN version of the story, which brings us back to the original version of the story as reported by the NY Times way back, well, yesterday.

So we’ve got a mainstream story, spread like wildfire by bloggers, then discredited by bloggers, then the discrediting of the story was picked up by mainstream media, then that version of the story was discredited by bloggers, then the mainstream media reacted to that discrediting by removing the story.

Now that the original story has been re-credited (or de-discredited?), expect the right leaning bloggers (instead of simply giving credit where credit is due) to go after the mainstream media for reporting the story in the first place.

You can also follow along as bloggers from both sides lash into each other over the importance of this story. You can bet mainstream journalists will be watching along with you. And the bloggers will be watching them. And so on.

That’s a few hours in the life of blogs and mainstream media (hopefully the person who emailed me the interview questions will read this post – what blogger has time to answer email in this environment?).

Meanwhile, at least now you’re all caught up on the life of the munitions story (not counting the twists that likely took place while I was typing this post).

Whether or not any of the undecided voters in swing states are following along at home (or whether that’s what these mass blog debates are really about) an entirely separate matter.

Concentration is important!