Bloggers: Friend or foe to "real" news

Yahoo! News - Bloggers, the new US media watchdogs:
Yahoo! News - Bloggers, the new US media watchdogs

This article argues that blogging played a substantial role in the downfall of Dan Rather and Eason Jordan, the protagonists of two recent news scandals. I don't dispute that blogging played a role in the uproar leading to both resignations. However, is mass-blogging a legitimate "watchdog" of the media, as it is phrased in the article? While I champion the realm of blogging as one of the finest manifestations of free speech, I think we need to be careful when attributing it with too much credit. Having an "influence" and being a "watchdog" connote two very different things. Being overwhelming does not make a particular viewpoint right. It reflects passion, organization and potentially a majority, but not necessarily the moral or true viewpoint. As a maybe not-so-abstract example, let's say that a major news network decides to run a story that is severely critical of a particular politician. Furthermore, let's assume that this politician has millions of well connected admierers. This network of admirers might take the time to blog against the credibility of the report simply because it is hostile toward their "guy", regardless of the report's merit.

I guess my point is that blogging is an excellent tool for the practice of democracy and for the ability of people to be heard, both individually and collectively. However, a viewpoint that rises to the top in blogistan through a myriad of networked links and citations is not necessarily the right viewpoint. I think our society still has a place for professional journalists that are tasked with dutiful research and quest for the truth, no matter what the political repercussions of telling the truth may be. It's easy to write a critical opinion, especially anonymously, on a blog. It is much harder, and respectable (from a news standpoint) to attach one's name to a story that will be widely reported for certain.

All this being said, I am not a big fan of mass media news outlets, especially those of the televised variety. I think that professional journalism is a serious issue that needs to be improved upon continually. My favorite sources of news (in order from favorite to least favorite) are The Economist magazine, The WSJ news pages (as opposed to its highly conservative opinion pages), The Washington Post, The New York Times and CNN (when I feel I must watch instead of read.)

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