All hail the influence of the blogosphere! Which is hardly the watershed paradigm it was purported to be, if you believe this CNN/Money survey found on Professor Bainbridge, though depending on who you talk to, blogs are in fact, all that and a bag of chips, unless they’re under fire for pushing misleading exit poll numbers, but then again, the people who are calling blogs out are also the same ones saying blogging is the new mainstream media. Strangely, it’s the (old?) mainstream media that’s doing all the talking, finger pointing, and retracting, er, qualifying. And, as Instapundit cites from the link, “…The numbers they and other bloggers posted came from the National Election Pool, an organization owned by the big networks and the Associated Press. NEP’s numbers go to those outfits and to other media organizations that pay boatloads of money to get a peek. The numbers weren’t some Internet invention, but data generated at the request of the mainstream media.” Who’s selling what to whom, how much, and why?
As James Joyner points out, bloggers are hardly calling themselves mainstream, though traffic data suggests the blogosphere has a wide reaching audience, and levies quite a bit of influence among its denizens, who often are highly critical of Big Media’s coverage (or lack thereof). Joyner also argues that the numbers Big Media is using to do its finger pointing may not accurately represent influence. Which may also explain how Big Media’s numbers can remain high whilst its influence steadily decreases.
Big Media used to lack a quality control mechanism on the outside, but with blogs, it is a lot harder to “get away with” errancy, shoddy reporting, and underhanded methods, as CBS found out earlier in the summer. Ombudsmen can only do so much, and often (as in the case of Daniel Okrent for the New York Times) are seen as shills for their own paper. Bloggers are more often happy enough to elevate the role of the blogosphere whilst ignoring or downplaying their own, personal role in the blogosphere. Thus the disconnect between a blog or group of blogs having influence is seen differently than the blogosphere as a whole as having influence. And too, blogs, or rather their owners, are not compartmentalized by a centralizing agency, and thus any numbers coming straight from the blogosphere are suspect, at least as being standardless.
Then there’s the argument for and against accuracy in Big Media and the blogosphere. A CBS correspondent argues that blogs present information in a factually misleading manner (via Instapundit). Then again, it was the blogosphere that brought CBS to its misleading knees in the case of its premiere investigative journalism team airing forged documents that alleged Bush was derelict in his National Guard duties.
Clearly, the influence of the blogosphere is not yet vaunted to superstar status. And whilst blogs like to toot the blogosphere’s horn, especially when in conjunction with something Big Media has done, it seems that Big Media has built a strawman out of the blogosphere, with the intention of tearing it down to size, in order to vault its image. Most blogs on the mainstream right, left, and center tend to see the blogosphere’s role as auxiliary, functioning as a kind of quality control, fact-checking entity with which Big Media might be measured and weighed. And though blogs don’t seem to want to be labeled as mainstream, there are those who continue to insist that blogs are vying for the top. They will foster a misperception which will further erode the tenuous relationship between the blogosphere and Big Media.