This Post Written by a Fool
In challenging the superiority of MSM over the power of the blogosphere, Rago brought up coverage of the Iraq war as a case example. Hugh Hewitt brought up the important work of embedded bloggers, Bill Roggio, Michael Yon, and Michael Totten:
HH: Those three bloggers have, this year alone, Roggio spent three months in the country, Michael Yon brought news from Mosul of the Gates of Fire series of posts, Michael Totten has been in and out of Kurdistan and Lebanon reporting on the Cedar Revolution. Do you wish to set them up as inferior to any three mainstream media journalists?Rago doesn't really answer Hewitt's question about whether or not "if" three bloggers are doing good reporting and the vast mainstream media network is doing lousy reporting, wouldn't that make the 3 superior?
JR: No, certainly not.
HH: So if those three represent one aspect of media, then we’ve got a tie.
JR: Well, I don’t think three people adds up to a tie. You know, a Baghdad bureau is extraordinarily expensive, reporters going in and out for the mainstream media. And I just don’t think it’s comparable to find isolated incidents…you know, three people, and compare it to the entire apparatus.
HH: But if those three people are doing good reporting, and mainstream media is by and large doing bad reporting out of Iraq, doesn’t that mean the ‘sphere is doing better reporting?
JR: Well, I mean, I don’t think that the mainstream media is doing all that bad reporting out of Iraq. You know, the pessimistic, glass half-full [I think he means glass half-empty- ws] reporting they’ve done has held up much better than the commentary in the blogosphere.
Hewitt goes on, though, to challenge Rago's belief that the mainstream isn't "doing all that bad reporting out of Iraq", by offering up an interview that Lt. General James Mattis gave:
“I was talking to a lieutenant in Haditha,” he told the San Diego County reporter, “He told me that because they are now all connected nowadays, and they’re FOB’s, he could read stories about Haditha.” He said, “I guarantee you there has not been a reporter in Haditha in my last two and a half months here. We are seeing,” the general continued, “I think, an unwitting passing of the enemy’s message, a critical, unwitting passing of the enemy’s message, because the enemy has successfully denied the Western media access to the battlefields. I’m not sure what Lloyds of London is charging now. I think it’s over $5,000 dollars a month insurance for a reporter or photographer to go in. But the murder, the kidnapping, the intimidation means that in many cases, we have media folks who are relying on stringers who are Iraqi. Now you can have any kind of complaint about the American media or Western media you want, but there is at least a nod, an effort, towards objectivity. The stringers who are being brought in, who are bringing in these stories, are not bringing in the same degree of objectivity. So on the one hand, our enemy is denying our media access to the battlefield, where anything, perhaps, that I say as a general is subject to any number of interpretations, challenges, questions. But the enemy’s story, basically, gets out there without that, because our media is unable to challenge them. It’s unwitting, but at the same time, it can promote the enemy’s agenda, simply because there is an apparent attempt at objectivity.” Now Joe, without debating the specifics of what the general’s saying here, he is putting forward the proposition that in fact, mainstream media is terribly broken because they’re giving the appearance of covering what’s going on in Iraq, when in fact they’re relying on Iraqi stringers.
JR: You know, I’m certainly not going to argue with the general who is on the ground and has all the facts. And again, my general argument is in terms of opinion and comment. If you look at the analysis of the Iraqi situation, I think what you’ll find in the mainstream media has largely been more realistic, and more rigorous, than what you’ll find in the blogs.So what do you imbeciles think?
HH: Well, actually, again, I have to disagree with you, because Mudville Gazette spent a year in country as a sergeant there, a number of mil-bloggers are over there from chaplains to generals. For example, I interviewed John Abizaid at length, put it all up on the blog, got his message out there without the filter that you folks tend to put in the way, you folks being mainstream media people. And in fact, Michael Yon, Roggio, the rest of them, they run circles around your folks. And Bill Roggio just spent…embedded with the Iraqi army, for goodness sake, in Fallujah. That’s after a tour in Afghanistan, another tour in Iraq this year. I think maybe there are some isolated instances of good reporting coming out of Iraq by mainstream media people, but I think unless you can come up with three people who have done the same kind of ground-breaking work, or four people that I’ve just cited, I actually think you’re wrong. Are you open to the prospect that you’re wrong on that?
JR: I’m always open to the prospect that I’m wrong. I just don’t see an argument supported by three or four people versus the entire apparatus of the mainstream media. And I guess the other point is, I don’t think that anybody would read my article and come away saying that the mainstream media is infallible, or that it even always does a good job, or even sometimes does a good job. The point, rather, was that the institution, the way that they filter things, tends to increase seriousness and expertise in the purveying of opinion and comment, and I just don’t see that on the internet.
HH: Well, it sounds to me like you’re making the argument that because the mainstream media spends a lot of money maintaining bureaus in Iraq, they must therefore be doing good work.
JR: No, I don’t think that’s it at all. I’m saying that they have an institutional support which vastly increases the professional reporting.
HH: But again, I don’t think that’s by any means at all evident. If you’ve got Roggio running around Fallujah, typing up his notes every night, where you’ve got Michael Yon in Mosul, or you’ve got Totten running around Kurdistan or Lebanon, typing up their notes and putting it out there, the fact that you’ve got a thousand journalists in the Green Zone doesn’t negate the comparable quality of both of those things. I trust the three Americans who are out in the combat land, and I trust military bloggers, of whom there are legions, much, much more than Green Zone bound journalists. Do you?
Flopping Aces has the audio of the entire interview for download. Transcript up at Hugh Hewitt.