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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fake e-mail publisher defended in Boston Globe

Oh, Jason, how mean were those bloggers to
you? It must have been awful

Bloggers battle old-school media for political clout
Online journals gaining greater influence, scrutiny

By Michael M. Grynbaum, Globe Correspondent | July 6, 2006

WASHINGTON -- When a writer for The New Republic, the 92-year-old doyen of elite Washington opinion journals, accused the nation's most prominent political blogger of using his online clout to hush up a potential scandal involving a former business partner, he knew there might be some backlash from the so-called ``new media."

But he didn't expect death threats.

``This wasn't meant to be a big fight," a tired-sounding Jason Zengerle, senior editor for The New Republic, said in a telephone interview last week.

Nonetheless, Zengerle's posting has sparked a steadily escalating uproar among scores of liberal bloggers who rushed to their keyboards in defense of Markos ``Kos" Moulitsas ZĂșniga , the founder of the popular blog Daily Kos. But the posting has also prompted ``old media" outlets -- like the conservative National Review and New York Times columnist David Brooks -- to pick up on what some insist is the first scandal to hit the political blogosphere.

Now, as readers of political blogs await the next chapter in an increasingly vituperative online battle -- Moulitsas has called The New Republic ``Lieberman- worshiping" neocons ' while Zengerle says Moulitsas operates ``the digital equivalent of a smoke-filled backroom" -- some outside observers believe the dust-up may be a benchmark in the blogosphere's entrance into mainstream politics, as blogs begin to face the same level of scrutiny as traditional media outlets.

``The blogosphere has always been mainly about scrutinizing everybody else and expressing violent opinions about them," said Alex S. Jones , director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. ``Kos is a very powerful blog, so in that sense it's taken on the vulnerability of one of the [political] leaders."

Standing somewhere between opinion journalism and straight reporting, the blogosphere occupies an ambiguous space in the media world. Many bloggers, including Moulitsas, are vocal political advocates and, occasionally, current or former campaign consultants -- but their online role can also include breaking or reporting the news.

And the political blogosphere's influence, both online and off, has been growing. Daily Kos, for example, attracts more than 4 million page views each week, and a recent bloggers' convention in Las Vegas named for Moulitsas attracted numerous Democratic presidential hopefuls. The New Republic brouhaha raises new questions about the accountability of an increasingly important medium known for both innovative reporting and anonymous hearsay, media observers say.

``This fight is saying `Welcome to the big leagues,' " said Richard Bradley , the former editor of George Magazine and a blogger himself. ``If you want us to take you seriously, we're going to ask you the same questions that we ask anyone else who aspires to be a power-player in Democratic politics."

OK, let's cut the shit.

First,Zengerle used stolen e-mails to base a series of innaccurate posts where he did zero reporting. He interviewed no one involved and did nothing to check the accuracy of what he posted.

Second, he acknowlegded that he printed an e-mail which was false and claimed to be from me. He wrote the most churlish apology possible and left it at that, despite the clear ethical laspe.

Third, management at TNR was clearly worried about his sloppiness and made that clear in several ways.

More to the point, Zengerle and the TNR staff are clearly more interested in printing ridiculous and unfounded assertions about the mysterious power of Kos than actually reporting the financial and editorial success of blogs. Kos merely runs the most popular site on the left, he rarely asks anyone to do anything, and spends half his time running a network of sports blogs, so he's hardly a kingmaker on his own site.

The Globe article makes Zengerle out to be a victim, when in reality, he victimized several people, including me, by his sloppy, inaccurate writing, I can't really call it reporting.

But the underlying premise, first pushed by Chris Suellentrop with no evidence, was that Kos is taking money from pols for support. God, what a fucking stupid transposition of reality. Kos gives money to pols. Most of the current ads on his site are for media products and unions.

A simple check of his ad rates would show that makes no sense. Why would he need a couple of grand when his costs of running the site are from $6-8K a month? A simple look at the economics would show otherwise.

As for some secret alliance with Jerome Armstrong, uh, Armstrong had his own site, MyDD, which is also quite popular. He never was a part of Daily Kos. So why isn't MyDD pushing Warner?

And what about Atrios? He makes a great deal of money online. Why aren't pols trying to buy him?

Kos runs a community which routinely questions him and his actions. Does anyone really think he could push Mark Warner without being called on it? Not anyone with brains.

Then he tried to imply that Kos had a financial stranglehold on the left blogs throught the Advertising Liberally network, one he formed, but does not run. Did he contact Chris Bowers to find out how it was run? No. He makes up a relationship which doesn't exist because he didn't do any reporting.

And then there's the allegation that he runs the left blogosphere.

Mindbendingly stupid. There is no one center of power, Kos is just where people meet, the Studio 54 of the left blogosphere. Not the command center. Yet, because Zenglerle and Suellentrop are too lazy to ask people, bloggers, questions, they just make up their own narratives and move on.

As for death threats: publish them in full with the headers. Contact the ISP. I believe he's being melodramatic myself, but there isn't a blogger who wouldn't have helped track down a genuine threat to his safety. But that makes him sound like a big man, the awful internets tried to kill me.

As for a scandal, do people really think we would tolerate Kos being on the take? I think if that were the case, friendship or not, I wouldn't cover that up or participate in that, nor would most people. We're not Beltway reporters, we dislike corruption in any form.

Of course, the Boston Globe doesn't think bloggers can be quoted on matters directly affecting them, either. I mean, why wasn't I or Kos or Bowers asked about any of this stuff? I guess we don't count.

posted by Steve @ 11:15:00 AM

11:15:00 AM

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