Duncan Currie sees 2005 as a good year for democracy. It’s too early to know whether the progress made in the Middle East this year will be the start of something big but, says Currie, “if the coming decades do in fact witness a democratic reformation in Middle Eastern politics, historians will likely trace its roots back to the events of 2005–namely, to the purple fingers of Iraqi voters.”
In many other respects, 2005 was an up-and-down year. Gas prices went up and then they went down. President Bush’s approval ratings went down and then they went up. The estimated death count from Hurricane Katrina went way up and then it went way down. The temperature of the Plame investigation story went up and then it went down. The level of violence in Iraq went up and down, but overall the security situation improved significantly due in major part to the fact that tens of thousands of Iraqi security forces now effectively participate in the security effort. Highly publicized danger areas (the road from the airport to downtown Baghdad, the Haifa road, Sadr City) became relatively safe, and thus no longer highly publicized. The MSM also failed to report on the substantial progress the U.S. made in training Iraqi security forces, and President Bush waited far too long to fill the void. The public hasn’t turned fundamentally against our action in Iraq, nor does it necessarily want a timetable for the end of our involvement — it simply (and reasonably) wants evidence that we’re making progress. Once the administation finally figured that out, the tide began to turn back in its favor.
The economy, by contrast, did not have an up-and-down year. Economic growth (including job creation) was robust and continuous except for a brief period following Hurricane Katrina. The MSM, which had harped on poor job and other economic performance reports earlier in the Bush administration, choose to ignore the economic success story of 2005. President Bush is planning to start telling that story too, which could help turn the tide further in his favor.
Regarding the latter, Betsy Newmark adds:
Touch, touchy, aren’t they? Well, blogs are no different from the rest of the media. Some are good, some are partisan, and some are no good. However, many are written by people with expertise who comment knowledgeably about events. Why shouldn’t journalists want to read commentary from experienced lawyers and law professors, for example, when questions come up concerning the law? Haven’t you ever wondered where journalists get the so-called experts that they use to quote in stories and often to validate what they really want to say themselves? Lots of time, they’re just calling around to universities and other journalists to get a likely name. Or they’re searching around on the web trying to find the name of a likely-sounding expert. Or they’re returning to someone they’ve used or seen before, someone about whose positions on a question the reporter already has a pretty good idea of. Why should such an “expert” be any more reliable than any lawyer or professor who operates his or her own blog?
And when it comes to politics, you don’t need much of any special expertise. What expertise do reporters or TV pundits offer except that they have been observing politics for a long time? For some of the more partisan pundits, you can almost see the talking points that they’ve received from the DNC or the RNC before they went on the TV? Well, why should that make them considered some sort of political expert more so than someone who sits at home, watching C-Span and reading as much of the news as he or she (or I) can? With the Internet and Lexis-Nexus, any Average Joe can offer up do-it-yourself political analysis just as well as any “expert” called into a cable news studio for a two-minute interview.
It seems to me that the big advantage that professional journalists have is that they are being paid to get out in the field and ask questions to research a story. That’s why having a blogger like Michael Yon or Bill Roggio actually go out to Iraq and report back via a blog is such a threat to regular journalists. Of course, it seems that half the time, journalists don’t seem to be asking the right questions or pressing for more of an answer. How many times have you watched one of the Sunday talk shows and seen a politician not answer a question and then seen some big foot reporter like Tim Russert just drop the ball?
That’s why I think that journalists and bloggers should embrace each other as a grand symbiosis of information and insights. There are things that journalists can do that we in the blogosphere live off of. If they weren’t publishing their stories every day, what would we blog about? I don’t want the MSM to go away; I just want it to improve. And there are ways that good journalists can use the blogosphere. If I were a journalist getting ready to interview a politician, I’d check out blogs on both sides of the spectrum. See what each side is hot about. Also, if I was a journalist, I’d be using a tool like Technorati to see what bloggers are saying about stories that I wrote. I’d discard whatever I thought was just ideological bombast. But, there are many kernels of insight in all that blogging. And a journalist could get some insights of different ways to look at events that he or she might lack while staying within the bubble that exists as journalists and politicians talk to each other every day. They might find that the so-called conventional wisdom is just a bunch of other bubble-people talking to each other and holds very little wisdom.
Of course, the smearing of the Blogosphere by the MSM is nothing new–we documented a decade’s worth of attacks on citizen journalism back on July 4th.
Update: As I was saying…