Monday, February 14, 2005

Bloggers: 'Salivating morons' or ruthless truthseekers?

The New York Times' story on Eason Jordan's resignation succintly summarizes the two prevailing views of the bloggers who propelled his downfall.

On the one hand, some believe the bloggers are mob vigilantes. To represent this camp, the article quotes Steve Lovelady, a former editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Wall Street Journal and now managing editor the Columbia Journalism Review's website:

"The salivating morons who make up the lynch mob prevail," he lamented online after Mr. Jordan's resignation. He said that Mr. Jordan cared deeply about the reporters he had sent into battle and was "haunted by the fact that not all of them came back."

On the other hand, others see bloggers as watchdogs, pointing out the excesses and errors of those who dominate the public sphere. The article quotes Mark Coffey from his Decision '08 blog:

His own conclusion is that the mainstream media "is being held to account as never before by the strong force of individual citizens who won't settle for sloppy research and inflammatory comments without foundation, particularly from those with a wide national reach, such as Rather and Eason."

For my part, I tend to side with Coffey. While I have previously voiced fears that the blogosphere could become a senseless echo chamber, I hold out hope that it can jar the arrogant individuals who feel that their professional qualifications grant them infallibility out of their self-satisfied reveries.

Besides, it's unfair to condemn bloggers for their excesses when they're still trying to find the boundaries of their power.