Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bloggers and the Palin Nomination

The Palin story played right to the strengths of the blogs.

- Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism

In William Triplett, "Bloggers Investigate Sarah Palin; TV News Struggles to Catch Up With the Internet," Variety, September 2, 2008

When John McCain announced that Alaska governor Sarah Palin would be his running mate, many non-Alaskans didn't know much, if anything, about her. To many bloggers, the need for that knowledge was a call to arms. Rosenstiel says that "the best bloggers" knew that they could retrieve information about Palin's background through online research "without the need for classic reporting." He notes that the mainstream media had their hands full trying to deal with the implications of Obama's acceptance speech in Denver and the impact of hurricaine Gustav on the Gulf Coast and the Republican convention. The downsizing of journalism staffs added to the difficulty that traditional journalists had in responding quickly to the new name.

Not everyone agrees that bloggers have been so helpful. "Much of what I read on the blogs was hugely derivative of Anchorage Daily News coverage of Sarah Palin's political career, so unless you can cite a specific blog scoop, I've yet to be impressed by what they've turned up," says Jack Schafer of Slate. "On the downside, I think bloggers were far too eager to spread rumors about Trig Palin being Bristol Palin's son without even bothering to examine the child's birth certificate for proof."

Nevertheless, mainstream journalists have increasing been checking the blogosphere for updates. "When you see cable news analysts on TVs getting ready to talk, what are they doing? Looking on the Web," says one academic analyst. One Republican congressman noted that the bloggers' immediate investigative chatter "is a sign of things to come with conventions as we know them."

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