I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is that I cannot link directly to this article in the UK Sunday Times about the growing influence of Blogging and Bloggers.
The article is focussed on the fall on former New York Times editor, Howell Raines and unequivocally places the responsibility for his downfall on the Blogosphere:
A proliferating band of independent writers known as “bloggers” (short for web loggers) is pumping out personal takes on the news, and one of the most persistent themes of their websites has been that Howell Raines, executive editor of The New York Times, would have to resign or be sacked.
The bloggers got their man last week and have been exulting in their power. After a rollercoaster two years in the job, Raines resigned from The New York Times last Thursday along with Gerald Boyd, the managing editor.
The article goes on to specifically mention Glenn Reynolds , Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus and the leading role that all played in the relentless (and thoroughly merited) hounding of Mr.Raines, emphasising that, ten years ago, he would have gotten clean away with putting idealism before the truth. Nor is this the end but merely the beginning:
Their latest target is Maureen Dowd, a star writer who jeered at Bush for claiming that Al-Qaeda was “not a problem any more” and has yet to acknowledge that she played fast and loose with his words.
The article also goes on to hint at the depth of the libertarian/conservative influence in the Blogosphere:
The attacks on The New York Times have added to the suspicion among Democrats that internet pundits are part of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” once alleged by Hillary Clinton. The right is certainly gloating over the newspaper’s discomfiture. According to Kaus, a Democrat, “the blogosphere does tend to skew to the right, though not as badly as radio”.
And a warning of things to come:
Raines’s departure is allowing bloggers to indulge in further self-congratulation. The internet’s new breed of media commentators is already savouring its potential impact on the 2004 presidential race.
Which means that traditional opinion-shapers like the UK Times are also ‘savouring’ (or, perhaps more accurately, ‘fearing’) that potential impact as well.
I must say that I have had my doubts about the capacity of the Blogosphere to impact upon the wider world but perhaps I have underestimated it. When a handful of bloggers can force the editor of a publication as august as the New York Times out of his job, you know that the game has changed. The once-untouchable are now touchable and they know it. That, of itself, is hugely significant.
I don’t believe that British or European bloggers are yet having the tangible impact on this side of the Atlantic that US bloggers are clearly starting to have on that side but, then, orthodox opinions are far more hegemonic here. Still, I do not believe that the Guardian would have been forced to issue a shame-faced apology for its woeful distortion of the Paul Wolfowitz statement even a year ago. Maybe they feel that they cannot get away with that kind of thing anymore. If so, good.
The watchers are being watched. They probably don’t like it. I expect that, in due course, they will respond by lobbying the government to bring bloggers under ‘democratic control’ which is the widely accepted procedure for laying low the competition. When that happens, we will all know that we have truly arrived.
[My thanks to my dear friend and reader Nigel Meek for alerting me to the article in the Times.]