Man Without Qualities

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Now That Everything Glows So Brightly II

Duane D. Freese on Tech Central has some excellent and interesting insights on both the local (Lott) and global (conservatives directly chastise leaders with far reaching consequences) political effects of blogging.

Although Mr. Freese does a commendable job sorting out who influenced whom and what, he does not address why the liberal mainstream media missed this story. Similarly, Howard Kurtz noted: A dozen reporters heard the Senate majority leader say the country would have been better off if Thurmond had won the presidency -- and it was carried on C-SPAN -- but only an ABC producer thought the remarks were newsworthy. But he spends little effort trying to explain why the news significance was missed.

Mr. Kurtz does reproduce without comment Glenn Reynolds' explanation: "The guy's majority leader. Reporters, as opposed to bloggers, depend on him for access. The hinterlands are full of bloggers who don't care whether Trent Lott is nice to them or not. That makes them different from the Washington press."

Professor Reynolds is highly perceptive, but, in my opinion, he really drags the red herring with this comment. This explanation posits that the reporters were conscious of the story's potential significance but were not willing to write about that significance and cause its potential to be realized because the reporters would thereby risk losing "access." But the same Washington press corps has a long record of going for the carotid artery of any vulnerable Republican, including Senator Lott. Why should this story be any different? Sorry, sometimes even highly perceptive people swing an air ball.

Mr. Kurtz's also notes: Doyle McManus, Washington bureau chief of the Los Angeles Times, says his paper initially used an AP report because it had already done a Thurmond birthday story. That reaction suggests that Mr. McManus just did not understand that this story carried quite a different significance from a general "Thurmond birthday story." The current Strom Thurmand hardly figures in the subsequent mess, which is, of course, about Senator Lott, not Strom Thurmond.

In my opinion, any satisfactory explanation as to why the national liberal media missed this story probably must start from the assumption that they did not comprehend the significance of this story and that the more conservative Wall Street Journal tumbled to it's significance first among the mainstream media.

My prior post takes a preliminary stab at such an explanation, but much more needs to be done.

But answering the question: WHY DID THE LIBERAL MAINSTREAM MEDIA MISS THIS STORY may ultimately be the story's most politically significant imperative, together with the scientific mirror image of such a historical explanation: What other stories like this are the liberal mainstream media missing and likely to miss in the future?

At the moment, that imperative seems to be lost in an unappealing cloud of blogger triumphalism and mainstream embarrassment.

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