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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blogs in the MSM: Rating the roundups

Traditional news sources are telling a contradictory story about political weblogs. While blogs are presented as the engines of a rejuvenated political debate, MSM sources often link readers to posts that merely restate ideas that have been repeatedly rehearsed by politicians, activists and mainstream commentators.
Most Internet users have yet to start using blogs -- about 73 percent of them, according to data from the Pew Internet & American Life Project -- and it is reasonable to predict that some will try to learn about blogs through major news sources' blog roundups. In the absence of a clear consensus on the purpose and merit of blogs, readers who are new to blogs may misjudge the roundups as measures of public opinion. To help readers access new and informed ideas in political debates, MSM sources may have to betray the democratizing potential of blogs and take the risk of judging individual bloggers on their expertise and originality.
The traditional media kept a watchful eye on political blogs during Judge Samuel Alito's Supreme Court confirmation hearings this month. Washingtonpost.com's "Who's Blogging?" feature tracked bloggers who linked to Post stories, as the site has done since fall 2005. NYtimes.com ran one of its sporadic blog roundups for the occasion. And Slate shifted the focus of its regular "Today's Blogs" column to the confirmation hearings.

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