The Editor’s Blog: Your Message Here

By: Greg Mitchell

As some of you know, E&P recently announced plans to launch a full-fledged blog attached to this site, but we wisely refrained from setting a launch date. There are numerous technical and staffing issues yet to be resolved, but I thought I’d try an experiment here to help gauge how popular and useful a bloggish discussion board might be.

In the past year, I’ve devoted several columns to printing reader mail generated by particularly controversial subjects. But these columns were always summaries, lacking a life of their own. And the letters section here is “accessible” only through the site index, so we need to do something to encourage and respond to feedback. Here?s one effort.

Rather than limit this to one subject, I will kick it off with a few letters we?ve received in the past couple of days on a variety of news stories and columns posted this week. There are numerous other ?hot? stories still available on our site that you can comment on, including the naming of John Tierney to succeed William Safire at The New York Times, Newsday reporter Laurie Garrett?s blast at the ?greedy? corporate newspaper bosses, and the latest ?Boondocks? problems, among others.

I will add any comments to the END of this column as they come in, hour to hour, so keep checking back for new material. Join in! Send mail to: gmitchell@editorandpublisher.com


JEFF GANNON CONTROVERSY

J. Medlar, Atlanta: Don’t you people have nothing else to write about? National Defense, terrorism, Iraq, the budget deficit, Social Security? Ya’ll crazy!!!

**

ANN COULTER CALLING HELEN THOMAS AN ‘OLD ARAB’

Ted Church, Memphis, Tenn: And we expect anything more than that from the profoundly mean-spirited and generally lying Ann Coulter?

Daniel Tynan, witlist.blogspot.com: An imagined Ann Coulter apology, coming from her handlers:

“What she meant to say was ‘that sand nigger, Helen Thomas.’ Ms. Coulter regrets the error.

“Ms. Coulter would also like to correct other errors that were inadvertently introduced into her February 23 column. For example, in paragraphs 5, 6, and 7, the words ‘Maureen Dowd’ appear. The corrected text should read ‘that boozy slut.’ In the penultimate paragraph, Ms. Coulter used the phrase ‘proving our gays are more macho than their straights.’ By ‘our gays,’ she meant in no way to include Ken Mehlman, Scott McClellan, or Karl Rove.

“Wherever the word ‘liberals’ is used in the column, readers are encouraged to substitute the terms ‘wimps’ or ‘traitors.’ Ms. Coulter regrets the errors.”

**

MITCHELL COLUMN ON THE BLOG ARMY

Patricia Santhuff, Bremen, Ga.: There are unbelievable scads of information that most reporters can access with a very few mouse clicks and don’t BOTHER — and that’s true of the Gannon/Guckert case as well. There’s no good reason except the laziness of the press and the continued protection of the Bush Administration. There are so many other examples — name any subject and again and again we in the blogosphere find reporters not bothering to take the smallest step and use Google (let alone Lexis/Nexis, which most of us don’t have access to) to find out important information. My compliments and thanks on the work E&P has done on this story. But please, don’t imagine that it always takes a battalion of pajamadeen to ferret out important info — it just takes Google and the willingness to use it.

Eileen Smith: Your summary of the investigation of the Gannon story makes the same error that jazz fans make when they say that jazz began with Dizzy — you left off the beginning. The blogs-after-Gannon story really began nearly a year earlier, on February 18, 2004, on my blog Webdems. I exposed Gannon’s dubious credentials and the peculiar nature of Talon News then, and questioned the press office’s judgment in allowing him credentials.

After posting that information on my blog, I notified Dan Froomkin at WaPo of what I had found. He linked to my blog the following morning and subsequently told me he had known something about Gannon, too.

I’m not particularly vexed about credit for the scoop, but write to point out that you tell your readers that you followed and are telling the blog backstory from beginning to end, and that just isn’t so. There is an identifiable beginning. February 18, 2004, webdems.blogspot.com. Please correct your piece, for the sake of accuracy.

Brian deFord: I just read your article on blogs breaking the Gannongate case wide open. You expressed your surprise at the resources deployed and reached the conclusion (correctly) that the reason the blogs can get to the bottom of things that the MSM cannot is the number of people involved. However, you might have been less surprised and reached your conclusion far more quickly had you known of another Internet phenomenon which has many parallels and which predates blogs by many years: open source Software. A knowledge of OSS might help you better take advantage of the resources that blogs can provide.

Les Barstow, Colorado: Mitchell “gets it,? as the Net would say. A determined and experienced reporter still has his sources, and mainstream media have yet to find a way to match the collaborative research power of a hundred bloggers. I look forward to the print and broadcast media accepting the unique benefits of the blogging community, while forgiving its admitted shortcomings. Welcome to a new, more open world.

Conrad Dunkerson: There is no need for ‘mainstream news’ to ‘compete’ with the resources of the blogs. They could simply USE the resources of the blogs. Any major news outlet who posted a lead to one of the larger blogs which fit the local ideological slant can be guaranteed that it would be followed up on. Granted, blog investigations are by their very nature ‘public’ and thus equally accessible to the competition. Still, once a story breaks everyone has it anyway.

Try it some time. Just, “I am working on a story for Editor & Publisher, and I need some information about…”

Who needs to compete? The blogs are right there and generally open to all.

Olivier Six: If you want to understand the power of blogs, have a look at groklaw.net. Look at the scope of the task they tackle. Snoop around, and look at the results. Then you will have an idea of what political blogs could become if they ever got organised the way open-source people are.

[all the above posted 3:00 PM ET Wednesday]

Becky Garrick, Grove Hill, Ala.: There’s no excuse that the so-called “real” media can’t get anywhere near “the story” like the bloggers do. Most are flat out complicit with the corruption, lies, greed, and graft. Even after the bloggers “get it right,” the mainstream press is GUILTY AS CHARGED of being SILENT! A savvy media outlet would have their fingers and toes in both the blogosphere and the MSM.

[posted 4:30 PM ET Wednesday)

NEWSDAY REPORTER RIPPING TRIBUNE CO.

Elizabeth Ferrari, San Francisco, Calif.: As someone who has gone from being in a two-paper family to a no-paper, all internet news family, I want to thank Laurie Garrett. I don’t know if she is right about greed and profit, but she is right about American journalism.

It’s unclear how the decision to stop taking a paper (or, to stop watching televised “news”) becomes a self-evident solution. Maybe it’s the cumulative experience of watching story after story being neglected or outright misrepresented. Maybe it’s the mass circulation of political talking points. Please make us wrong.

[posted 4:50 PM ET Wednesday]

ON GALLUP POLL FINDING ON NUKES

Henry Dorst, Vancouver, B.C., Canada: That one out of four Americans would use nukes on terrorists should alarm all humans everywhere, including Americans. Such lack of heart as well as thoughtlessness as this poll displays one should only expect from terrorists, surely?

To those who think that a nuclear bomb is a precision weapon which will take out the mad few who sow their terror – the last nuke dropped on two Japanese cities it cost over 120,000 mostly innocent lives. In 1945, when this occurred, only one country had them. Today there are a dozen or so with a total of thousands of bombs.

What such a poll portents, surely, makes it high time for all serious journalist to live up the best standards of their profession and wake people up. Such insane thinking cannot be left to grow further.

[posted 9:30 AM ET Thursday)

MORE ON BLOG RESEARCH

Bill Rehm: As a web application developer, I can tell you that most of the story came from simply using Google search. When Talon took down all of the pages related to Gannon/Guckert in an attempt to purge the information from the web, folks used Google’s caching feature to rediscover them. If you look at the results of a Google search, each entry end with a line similar to this: www.talonnews.com/ – 2k – Cached – Similar pages.

The “Cached” link fetches a copy of the web page that Google has stored (cached) on it’s server farm to make indexing it for searching more efficient.

Some other tools that were helpful: two internet utility programs, “whois” and “nslookup” allow users to find out information about sites on the internet. These are available on the web.

I haven’t read all of the blogging on this, so I don’t know how all of this stuff was dug up, but this is how a fair amount of it was.

As far as your conclusion about how many people it takes, I think you’d be amazed if you walked the facts (as opposed to the speculation) back — it really was a relatively small number of people, working part-time on this.

[posted 10:00 AM ET Thursday]


MORE ON NUCLEAR VIEWS IN POLL

Gary Spross: Your survey was interesting, however, the U.S. and its allies since 1991 have staged four nuclear wars using depleted uranium weaponry. “DU” is the definitive cause of Gulf War Syndrome. This phenomenon has been reported by doctors in hospitals treating civilians following NATO bombing with DU in Yugoslavia in 1998-1999 and the U.S invasion of Iraq using DU for the first time in 1991. We have been nuking countries for years .

[posted 1:00 PM ET Thursday]

Richard Lienemann: I suppose it would be nice if all the terrorists would gather in one place so we could nuke them. The only thing this poll does, is show how stupid 25% of our fellow citizens are. That’s scary.

[posted 2:30 PM ET Thursday]

THIS BLOG’s FOR YOU

Pam Robinson: I wholeheartedly applaud your decision to add a blog to the E & P site. You’ve been out front on this issue, where many our colleagues are spending their time resisting and denigrating all things blog. It will be to their detriment, I fear.

[posted 10 pm ET Thursday]

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