Reading about Garry Trudeau’s attack on Bloggers got me thinking about all of the bad press the mainstream media has thrown at the Blogosphere since…well, since before there was a Blogosphere.
In 1998, a young man (who has since indicated that he hates being called a blogger) burst onto the national scene by the name of Matt Drudge. Here’s a little bit of what the mainstream press wrote about Drudge, the first person to gain national recognition as an Internet-based journalist:
In 1998, Doug Harbrecht was the president of the National Press Club and Washington news editor of Business Week magazine. Here’s how he introduced Drudge, when Drudge was invited to speak at Washington’s National Press Club in June 1998:
I’d like to welcome Club members and their guests in the audience today, as well as those of you watching on C-SPAN or listening to this program on National Public Radio.I must confess, my first reaction to having our speaker today at the National Press Club was the same as what a lot of other members of the Club have had: Why do we want to give a forum to that guy?
Then there’s Keith Olbermann, that bright spark of cable TV chat shows. Speaking at Cornell University’s commencement around that same time, he quipped that Newsweek’s story on Monica Lewinsky got scooped “by an idiot with a modem who has decided that his job is to take any rumor he hears and put it out onto the Internet.”
Similarly, the New York Times dubbed Drudge “the country’s reigning mischief maker and proprietor of a one-man Internet gossip column”. And Columbia Journalism Review wrote that “Drudge isn’t a reporter; he’s your next-door neighbor gossiping over the electronic fence”.
The irony is that Drudge was hardly the first one-man citizen content provider. As Jonah Goldberg wrote around that time, I.F. “Izzy” Stone published his own one-man newsletter for almost twenty years. And in contrast to Drudge, the leftwing Stone was praised by numerous big-league journalists:
[Stone] was called a “journalist’s journalist” by ABC’s Peter Jennings. The Los Angeles Times hailed him as “the conscience of investigative journalism.” The New York Times’ Anthony Lewis praised him as “the reporter who taught us to penetrate the squid-ink of official truth.”
Jonah asked, “So why is Stone considered a brave iconoclast by the Dan Rathers of the world, while Drudge is treated like something Rather might accidentally step in on the New York sidewalks outside CBS headquarters?”
Perhaps because Drudge was the harbinger of things to come. Since then, numerous citizen journalists have arrived on the scene. Back in 2002, Glenn Reynolds, one of the pioneers of using Weblogs as a news and opinion publishing platform, asked his readers to email in if his site influenced them to launch their own Weblogs.
The result? Over 200 bloggers (including us) cited Instapundit as their inspiration. And that number has only increased–exponentially–since.
But the rise of this army of populist pundits only angered the mainstream media. This has resulted in some…amusing…commentary from newspapers who hold themselves out as representing “the little guy”–until the little guy decides to go into the same business. We can only provide a taste of some of the thousands of words written about Weblogs since 9/11, but hopefully it will give you an idea of what some of the recurring themes of their criticism contain.