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Better Get a New Job

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"Better Get a New Job"

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Michael Skube stands up for good old-fashioned reporting:

And to think most bloggers are doing all this on the side. “No man but a blockhead,” the stubbornly sensible Samuel Johnson said, “ever wrote but for money.” Yet here are people, whole brigades of them, happy to write for free. And not just write. Many of the most active bloggers — Andrew Sullivan, Matthew Yglesias, Joshua Micah Marshall and the contributors to the Huffington Post — are insistent partisans in political debate. Some reject the label “journalist,” associating it with what they contemptuously call MSM (mainstream media); just as many, if not more, consider themselves a new kind of “citizen journalist” dedicated to broader democratization.

I’m fairly certain that Andrew and I both have full time jobs as employees of the Atlantic Media Company. I even have a 401(k). Josh is a small businessman and entrepreneur, I’ve seen the office in New York where he and his employees and their interns all work. This kind of sloppy error aside, I’m actually more upset by this:

In our time, the Washington Post’s reporting, in late 2005, of the CIA’s secret overseas prisons and its painstaking reports this year on problems at Walter Reed Army Medical Center — both of which won Pulitzer Prizes — were not exercises in armchair commentary. The disgrace at Walter Reed, true enough, was first mentioned in a blog, but the full scope of that story could not have been undertaken by a blogger or, for that matter, an Op-Ed columnist, whose interest is in expressing an opinion quickly and pungently. Such a story demanded time, thorough fact-checking and verification and, most of all, perseverance. It’s not something one does as a hobby.

Now, look. I’d be fascinated to see if Skube has an example of progressive bloggers linking to the Post‘s reporting on either of these subjects and deriding the work in question as hackwork by obsolete dinosaurs. What I recall is that these stories were widely linked to, praised, promoted, circulated, and disseminated. Obviously, Dana Priest’s reporting on the “black sites” would have been a big deal no matter what, but what progressive bloggers did was amplify and disseminate that story to a wider audience than The Washington Post ever could have reached.

Some bloggers, meanwhile, are also lawyers who were able to (yes, from their armchair) provide some expert commentary and analysis on the issues raised by the facts the Post brought to light. And other bloggers were able to combine links or references to the reporting with links to the analysis done by specialist people. As Kevin Drum says there was no crowding out here where what Marty Lederman or Duncan Black or Andrew or I were doing somehow made it more difficult for newspapers to do investigative reporting. If anything, the reverse is true. The widespread availability of a vast sea of armchair analysis and commentary on the internet will, over time, force large, professionalized news organizations to focus on their core, hard-to-duplicate competencies — and spend less time on the sort of fact-averse punditry Skube’s doing right here.

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