Blogversation 3

Evan Dawson asks a couple of interesting questions in his latest installment in our Blogversation.  Before getting to those, I'd like to make a couple of comments on installment 2.

GOP gets it right when he notes that there's still a big spot for traditional media in local markets, and that the pre-eminence of blogs as information sources is most evident at the national level.  And I think that Exile made a very important observation here:

In the era of blogs, I don’t think the same old gentleman’s club media ethos really flies anymore.   Given the choice between toothless but high-minded traditional media meanderings and tough, direct (and, yes, maybe rude) blog banter, serious readers will choose the latter.
To expand on this a bit, I think it's more than just the tone that attracts blog readers -- it's the way that content is presented. The McCain-lobbyist story reported by the Times and the US Attorney scandal reported by Talking Points Memo show the contrast.  In the Times story, editors sat on the story until they felt comfortable that all the reporting was done, and then it was disgorged in one big blob.  TPM posted the US Attorney story as they reported it, with periodic "where are we now" summaries.  This approach allowed TPM to break down the story into digestible chunks, and it also gave them the ability to quickly correct mistakes and back out of dead ends.  The Times story fell into a trap where a dead end (mistaken innuendo about a possible affair) overshadowed the rest of the story.  The result is that TPM readers know more about the US Attorney scandal than Times readers know about John McCain's relationship with lobbyists.

This is relevant to Evan's second question: 

Paige writes on Rochester Turning that he would like to see more fact-based reporting -- instead of the "He said, She said" style.  Do you guys agree?
The short answer is "yes", but I understand that it's not easy.  The facts aren't just sitting around for reporters to discover after five minutes on Google.  The FAIR plan, for example, was packaged in a way that makes it extremely difficult for reporters to ferret out the ultimate tax impact of the change.   To unwind the real impact of FAIR would probably require a series of investigative reports by a specialist in taxation.  This kind of deliberate obfuscation is common in today's politics, and it causes reporters to revert to "he said, she said" because they don't have the time to explain the story more fully.

Part of the solution is for reporters to use their blogs as a place for the "deeper read".  If the story is too complex to be fully aired on the on the reporter's main story (whether in print or on TV) , they can backstop it with blog posts that drill into more detail.   Another part of the solution is to post raw documents and video, so readers can catch something that the reporters might have missed.  The WHAM blog is doing some of this now, and I think it's a model for what a lot of local journalism will look like in the future. 

Reporters and the public should continue to demand transparency and full disclosure from government.  There also needs to be attention paid to unnecessary government complexity in New York State.  It's easy to get cynical about simplification efforts like Al Gore's in the 90's, but his now-forgotten effort to simplify was a good start.

Evan asks another question on information quality: 

Elmer writes on The Fighting 29th that blogs offer a real chance to find misinformation.  While that might be true, doesn't it seem that blogs are rising as a form of respected journalism?
Elmer's right that there's a ton of misinformation on the Internet, and a lot of it is on blogs.  On the Internet, the consumer has more responsibility for finding correct information, but it's not that hard to determine whether you're reading good information.  Since everything that's been published on a blog is usually available in its archives, you can read through a good selection of a blogger's work to see if he or she makes sense over time.  Usually blogs are discovered by following links from other blogs, and those recommendations are another way to judge if the information is good.  It's not perfect, but I don't think misinformation is a serious problem for someone who's willing to do some work to vet their information sources.

Finally, I want to address Evan's headline question:  "Does Steve Minarik Run the World?".  I agree with Evan that the primary responsibility of journalists is to examine the decisions of the Brooks administration, no matter who is really calling the shots.  I think that the role of Minarik as the "evil genius" behind the Brooks administration is probably interesting and worth reporting, but, like the role of Karl Rove in the Bush Administration, it can become a distraction.  The real story is what's being done by Brooks and the County administration, no matter who's behind it.  I'd rather have the media focusing on the viability of Renaissance Square rather than digging up Minarik/Brooks dirt.  In other words, follow the money, as they say on the Wire.


I think you and Evan bring up a very good point about Minarik. While I work in Monroe County, I never (other than doing a lit drop for Kuhl there in '06) get involved with its political happens because I don't live there, so I really don't have a dog in this fight. Yet, as you'd probably figure, I think Minarik does exactly what he's supposed to do as the MonroeGOP chairman. He raises tons of money for the party, and he gets Republicans elected in a county where Democrats outnumber Republicans by almost 23,700 voters. That, in a nutshell, is his job. Given that he's a political party head in a county which holds the third largest city in the state would naturally give him quite a bit of power, as it would anyone who holds his position and has been as successful as he has. Those who choose to treat him as the leader of the local Illuminati chapter when they disagree with the county leadership are not being productive at all, and IMHO, diminishes the arguments they have against the elected leadership.

I don't know about "diminishing" the arguments, but I do agree that all the inside baseball about Minarik is something that the average voter doesn't really care about.

And, as you point out, the facts are the facts. The Republicans maintain a majority in the County Leg and they hold the County Exec seat despite the Dem's numerical advantage. It's not evil Minarik's fault that the Democrats didn't even contest the County Exec position last cycle.

You don't seem to have understood my point, perhaps because I did not put it clearly enough. I'll put in more plainly ins later post.

Sounds good - I just re-read your post and Evan's post, and I think we're both drawing conclusions from one sentence. I think it's an important issue.