March 9, 2007
They're Not in Your Club but They Are in Your League: Firedoglake at the Libby Trial
"What happens? One blog puts more boots on the ground than any commercial news operation. The writers bring more background, savvy and commitment to the case. And they dominate in coverage of a big news event. Journalists themselves use it to keep up and get their bearings."
I wish I could have covered the Libby trial for my one-person magazine of press criticism, PressThink, which has been dark since January. But I have been consumed with a new project, NewAssignment.Net, which will be launching a Beta site and its first editorial project soon. (Like real soon.) Which means PressThink will spring back to life shortly.
As a critic who follows the fortunes of the American press, and writes about its collapse under Bush, I found it extremely painful to sit on the sidelines for this event. But as compensation I had the pleasure of watching Firedoglake, a group blog, emerge as the best site for primary, tell-me-what-happened-today coverage of the trial.
The political press supplemented FDL quite well, I thought.
If I had time, I went to Memeorandum and sampled all of it. If I didn’t have time, I read Firedoglake and the Washington Post’s team of Amy Goldstein and Carol D. Leonnig. It wasn’t a secret. Maybe 200,000 readers knew. If you wanted to keep up with the trial, and needed something approaching a live transcript, with analytical nuance, legal expertise, courthouse color, and recognizably human voices, Firedoglake was your best bet.
In Boston in 2004, I was part of the first class of bloggers admitted to cover a national political convention. I did some okay stuff. And bloggers had their coming out party before the national press. Beyond celebrating that arrival, no one suggested the bloggers had a better product, not even the bloggers.
In 2007, another first, similar in form: first class of bloggers accredited to cover a big Federal trial. They “join” the courthouse press as new members. And what happens? One blog puts more boots on the ground than any commercial news operation. The writers bring more background, savvy and commitment to the case. And they dominate the coverage of a big news event. Journalists themselves use it to keep up and get their bearings.
Granted, if what you most wanted was a concise bulletin, a few minutes a day from the Libby trial, there were better choices from among traditional suppliers. In all other categories, from hard news to analysis to informed ranting, FDL was tops.
What does that tell you, Newsroom Joe?
Firedoglake got handed a golden opportunity by the reluctance of big news organizations to spend on the information commons. At the Libby trial, there was no broadcast and no taping allowed. No posted transcript for anyone to consult. Thus the most basic kind of news there is—what was said in court today—was missing.
Converging on Washington, the team from FDL felt they represented people back home who wanted to know everything, and certainly had to have the blow-by-blow when court was in session. This was their strength: a demanding core community behind them, which couldn’t wait to discuss the newest events. Their decision was a no brainer: working in shifts, we live blog the whole thing.
“It’s a real shame no one is buying and Web-publishing the full trial transcripts,” wrote Dan Froomkin in his Jan. 24 White House Watch column. “In the absence of that, Firedoglake’s live-blogging of the trial is becoming essential reading.” Froomkin again on March 6 said that FDL “became a must-read for journalists who couldn’t attend the trial, but wanted to get a better and faster sense of what was going on than they could from their own colleagues.”
There were others getting credentials and independently blogging the biggest Federal trial in years. (Robert Cox did a good job getting seats for the Media Bloggers Association.) But none did what Jane Hamsher and crew did.
FDL had more people on the story (six contributors, all housed together). They cared more about documenting every turn. They knew more about the case because they had been writing about it for longer, and they didn’t want to disappoint their supporters.
But wait a minute: bloggers do views, not news, right? They’re like a giant op-ed page, but without decorum. Bloggers are parasitic on reporting that originates elsewhere. Bloggers have an ax to grind, so their reports aren’t going to be reliable. Besides, bloggers don’t do reporting, really. Their trade is opinion (“…and don’t get me wrong, I think that’s great.”) These ideas are “fixed” points for a lot of journalists. And the example of Firedoglake at the Libby trial disconfirms them all.
It was the most basic kind of journalism imaginable. You’re my eyes and ears, Christy. Tell me what happened today. When it came time to interpret, to get inside the heads of the key actors, they rose to that challenge too. (Here’s video of FDL’s Jane Hamsher, Christy Hardin Smith and Marcy Wheeler after closing arguments.)
The nature of the Web makes it easy to discover where the people wary of the Bush White House and intrigued with the Valerie Plame case were hanging out— at this occasionally foul-mouthed, always-busy lefty poli-blog that sprung up around the CIA leak case, Firedoglake. Skeptical of the whole case and Patrick Fitzgerald’s decison to prosecute Scooter Libby, but intrigued to the point of obsession with its spreading awfulness? There was Tom Maguire’s blog, JustOneMinute, for that.
Both distinguished themselves long before the trial, along with Marcy Wheeler of The Next Hurrah, another go-to blogger for followers of the tale that started with Joe Wilson’s trip to Niger. (Not to leave out Jeralyn Merritt.) They were joined of course by some distinguished Washington journalists: Murray Waas of National Journal, David Corn of the Nation, Michael Isikoff of Newsweek. All broke stories. Corn and Isikoff wrote a book on the case, but then so did Marcy Wheeler, who joined forces with FDL for the book and the Libby trial. Her Anatomy of Deceit was the best primer available for the trial, in my opinion.
That an online community could, of its own free will, scare up support for six correspondents at a big trial; that the correspondents would work as hard as they did informing a live public; that they did it for expenses (no pay) and the joy of informing people who depend on you, this is a small, but remarkable part of the Libby case to reflect on, if we’re still aftermathing it.
What makes it possible are the people who gather at the site, and the falling cost for those people to meet up, realize their number, find a common mind, and when necessary pool their dollars to get their own correspondents to Washington.
This point came up when I went to NPR to talk to their news people— executives and staff— as part of a social media advisory group put together by Andy Carvin. (Jeff Jarvis blogged the event.) I said to NPR executives that the cost for like-minded people to locate each other, share information, and work together is falling— dramatically. And so things unthinkable or impractical before might be quite doable now.
For the Internet reverses audience atomization, and connects formerly isolated souls to one another. Well, an executive at NPR heard my words “like-minded people…” and they set off alarms. He said that this was exactly what he feared— the like-minded getting together to cover a story. It sounded to him like spin and political boosterism. Like-minded meant the echo chamber effect. Like minded meant a mob.
That’s your spin, I said. Like-minded could mean birds of a political feather flocking together. That happens a lot online. It could also mean people who share an interest in knitting, or the problems of returning veterans, or the Washington Redskins. When NPR’s local stations, the backbone of the system, appeal for members to come forward and fund the station, they’re seeking a conspiracy of the like-minded to sustain public radio.
I told him to check out Firedoglake during the Libby trial because his peers in the business, professional reporters, were finding it reliable. There’s your awful scenario, I said. Snarling partisans try to cover the news! But somehow the echo chamber is producing not only good but essential coverage. The raw material, and the more refined forms too. How can that be? I asked him.
He didn’t answer me. But the people of Firedoglake answered him. (I should say that on the whole, I found NPR’s leadership quite open to the possible benefits of “social” media. Video from the event.)
“Even as they exploit the newest technologies, the Libby trial bloggers are a throwback to a journalistic style of decades ago, when many reporters made no pretense of political neutrality,” wrote Scott Shane in a New York Times feature (Feb. 15). “Compared with the sober, neutral drudges of the establishment press, the bloggers are class clowns and crusaders, satirists and scolds.”
True, and this is part of their appeal. They also recorded more of the event in “just the facts” style than the neutrals in the establishment press. So who’s the drudge of what is news? I’m just advising Newsroom Joe and Jill: make room for FDL in your own ideas about what’s coming on, news-wise. Don’t let your own formula (blog=opinion) fake you out. A conspiracy of the like minded to find out what happened when the national news media isn’t inclined to tell us might be way more practical than you think.
If I understand your church, there’s nothing more sacred in it than good old fashioned shoe leather reporting— being there, asking questions and taking notes, scrambling to get down what happened. And yet here are these sinners—Atrios calls them the Dirty F__king Hippies—who walk off the jetways and do just that, the basic reporting, better than the people to whom it is religion. Wild month for the church, right?
Dave Winer said it the other day, and Doc Searls picked up on it: We are the sources, going direct. I’m in that church, if any. And if it wasn’t for NewAssignment.Net, I would have asked for space in FDL’s rotation myself. I could tell they were having a blast. Winer wrote, “Blogging allows us to go direct with our knowledge, experience and insights, without waiting for a reporter to ask us what we think.”
I think that’s one secret to Firedoglake’s performance at trial. Their ability to go direct and be direct. They were live at the trial for a public more kinetically alive to their work, and this improved their work, gave it more discipline, grounding it—despite swear words—in the most basic kind of good any news source can deliver.
We’re there, you’re not, let us tell you about it.
After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…
Tom Maguire of JustOneMinute, a Fitzgerald skeptic, in the comments:
Blogs can do two things on a big story - change the filter, or eliminate it.
“My favorite thing about blogging is that I can do whatever the heck I want.” Markos Moulitsas Zuniga responds to this post at Daily Kos. “Maybe the huge blogging success at the Libby trial will help educate the outside world about what we do, but it’s genuinely complex stuff. We’re not easily pigeonholed, no matter how much easier it would be for everyone if we were simpler creatures.”
In the comments at Kos there is this gem: “I don’t rely on blogs for news, but they’re as necessary for my reading of the news as my glasses.”
What made the liveblogging extraordinary was not just that Marcy was able to keep up with the fast pace in the courtroom. It was that she both knows the case at such a granular level of detail and understands how those granular details fit into the larger context of what is at stake in the proceedings, so that she has been able to produce a very reliable non-transcript of the moment-by-moment proceedings, available for anyone interested.
In the comments, ValleyGirl, part of the FDL community, has more backstage details about how the blog operated during the trial.
Pachacutec, one part of the Firedoglake team at the Libby trial, in the comments:
FDL tends on a regular day to post fresh content every 90-120 minutes or so, between 8:30 AM EST and 11:00 PM EST… more or less. But during the trial, we had to be more fluid, mostly for reasons created by technology.
Now according to Mark Obbie at Lawbeat, a Syracuse University J-school blog on legal reporting, It ain’t journalism. It’s really, really important to Obbie (a former executive editor of The American Lawyer) to get FDL out of that category. Out, out, out. Watch how generous he’s willing to be if he can just keep “journalism” for his own tribe.
About Firedoglake’s coverage: “It’s smart. It’s fun to read. Over the long haul, it’s much deeper and more detailed than daily-news stories. It’s respected by those in the know.” Sounds pretty good, right?
But it’s for a trial junky. It’s atomized, not narrative. It’s argumentative, not neutral.
News junkies aren’t a real news audience, or a valuable one for old school journalists to grab? Odd. But here’s where things pick up…
It’s for a tiny, tiny niche, not for the masses. And it expects way too much from its audience.
The thing with bloggers is they expect too much from the people they write and report for: too much attention, too much interest in the news, too much background knowledge. Journalists don’t make these kinds of mistakes. They have the balls to expect less of people. Obbie explains who the real journalists are.
We work hard to inform the masses.
It’s paying off, too. Many of the masses know you think of them as masses, Obe.
We try to make it understandable AND interesting. We write for the person in a hurry who needs to know about this, but doesn’t know she needs to know.
Are you getting this down? So all the people who feel they really ought to pay attention to the news when a very high White House official goes on trial, those people, the “junkie” population, they aren’t in the market for real Journalism, which is for the busy masses who can’t be bothered to acquire the basic knowledge needed to understand who’s being tried and why it matters.
We invite strangers into our midst. We don’t hold little coffee-klatch conversations and stare with cold contempt at the newcomer who has no idea what we’re talking about.
I say again: journalism, the real kind, isn’t for people who are informed and up on things, outraged by what they know and hungry for more information. The core market is clueless strangers, perpetually new to the story—the masses as Obbie likes to call them—and that’s what you bloggers will never be able to understand! What the masses want, need from the news. That’s our turf. Passionate, driven, nuanced, experienced-enriched in-depth, blow-by-blow reporting, analysis and commentary by people who know what they’re talking about, sure, blogs can do that. But get real: is that stuff journalism? Let them try to grab the attention of distracted people who have better things to do with their time than stay informed about potential abuses of power! Then they’ll see how difficult my job is, says Obbie.
So they’re not journalism, at least not usually — and not journalism as I care to understand it.
He says I am “smitten” by FDL and that half of what I said in my post was bunk. Sounds to me like he’s spooked. If you look what he gave to the bloggers and the news junkies, and what he kept for himself as Newsroom Joe, defender of the faith, soldier of the guild, it’s a remarkable division of labor and an even more remarkable bid for authority. Come to us for news: we know you as the masses.
See Libby trial bloggers fall on their faces by the same author.
Posted by Jay Rosen at March 9, 2007 1:39 PM Print
If there were a Pulitzer Prize for blogging, then Firedoglake would win it in a walk.
As you point out, the energy and enthusiasn for FDL shows how anemic "objective" journalism can be.
Posted by: David Ehrenstein at March 9, 2007 3:54 PM | Permalink
Unspoken but needing to be said:
The FDL Team is a group of very bright, capable people who can truly write. That they could produce such exquisite, precise descriptions and interpretations on deadline says more than any praise could hope to.
And it's not just individual: this was a team effort. Though I'm not much of a basketball fan, I've been know to watch a Phil Jackson-coached game just for the sheer joy of watching a team of individuals working in clocklike synchrony. FDL was a team.
I've no connection to FDL other than being a recipient of their generosity and their talents. They deserve our support. Hop on over and leave a donation, while you're at it.
Posted by: Michael O'Neill at March 9, 2007 3:59 PM | Permalink
I am a devoted reader of FDL. It is the best. Brilliant and savy and passionate. Because of reading about the trial and understanding the true meaning of this case (a case about covering up treason), I went to sit in the court room on two occasions. And I had to get up at 4am and drive over 200 miles and stand in line. But I loved it . I heard Grand Jury testimony and heard Tim Russert. I also went back down for closing arguments. FDL is the BEST. Main Stream corporate media had better get a handle on truth and facts and learn to avoid Rove's spin if they want to remain relevant.
Posted by: Alice B at March 9, 2007 4:07 PM | Permalink
They really did do a fantastic job. And although they had a definite point of view and were rooting for a conviction, their analysis was sober, clear, objective and multifaceted.
And, at the same time, TPMMuckraker is beating the print media on the Gonzalez Eight scandal. This is a watershed moment for internet journalism.
Posted by: jayackroyd at March 9, 2007 4:16 PM | Permalink
First of all, many, many times: thank you. This is, as Jane says, stuff to make us blush.
I just wanted to add a couple of thoughts.
I was the one who kicked off our coverage during vior dire, and it made me think a lot about finding my voice as a blogger, reporting the clean basics of what I was seeing and hearing, not in a style or tone derivative of what we see in establishment news outlets, but in a way that felt authentic. This involved a constant self-monitoring for at one moment, shoving my own points of view aside, letting them resurface and then working to make the fact of my awareness of their reemergence explicit again in my writing. Dizzying stuff, at times.
This also meant that, having spent a full day doing more straight reporting on a live blog, I needed some down time before coming back to do my nightly overview with a bit more analysis and opinion in it. Having done so much during the day to view and instantly document the mostly reportorial basics, it's as if I had to go back into my head to find out what I thought it all meant again at night, replaying it all in my head.
I don't know what exactly I'm driving at, but I guess I am saying I was very aware that we were blazing a new trail of sorts, and I for one found it fascinating to try to document what I felt I was discovering along the way, especially through my media related pieces.
Thanks again for the kind words, and the links.
Posted by: Pachacutec at March 9, 2007 4:18 PM | Permalink
Thanks for this panegyric to FDL. Your post reminds me that, while newspeople are supposed to affect an air of objectivity (which today equals parroting whatever the right wing says is true, as truth), and on the surface manage to carry it off, it's still the case that they or their editors pick the subject, they or their editors pick what they think are the salient points, they or their editors slice and dice to make it fit in a one-minute spot on tv or a two-column, below the fold, continued on page AEX35-B, expurgation of what they experienced. Objectivity, my ass (please excuse the indecorous expletive).
Posted by: Canuck Stuck in Muck at March 9, 2007 4:19 PM | Permalink
Jay Rosen - Bloggers like FDL and yourselves MUST KEEP IT UP!! Mainstream press was useless during Libby trial; wuzpost a poor substitute; nyt less than worthless. NPR gutless - Ray suarez was sucking V Toensig's ass drg his interview. Keep up the good work.
Posted by: hawaii at March 9, 2007 4:25 PM | Permalink
Riveting coverage, spot-on analysis, and a very vibrant community. FDL=not to be missed.
Posted by: newtonusr at March 9, 2007 4:40 PM | Permalink
If you're a left-winger, FDL is the place to go. For the rest of us----not so much.
Posted by: QC Examiner at March 9, 2007 4:40 PM | Permalink
I think you've summed up what's special about Firedoglake pretty well, Jay. I think of the Libby trial as "citizen journalism", although at least in Marcy Wheeler's case there's clearly some professional experience, as well. This is the sort of thing this new technology enables - an ongoing discussion and analysis of news combined with on-the-spot reporting. Blogs like FDL and Talking Points Memo represent the future of journalism, I think, and inflexible and increasingly useless institutions like the New York Times its past.
firedoglake did a brilliant job. Back in the 1940's CBS did a radio show called "You Are There" reinacting major historic moments, during the 1950's CBS did "You Are There" as a television program and Cronkite was the host. At a 1960's civil rights dust-up rocks were flying and Dan Rather who was reporting said "I am here." Of course that was back when CBS was the 'Tiffany Network' and not a Katie Couric perkyness festival.
Isn't this the essence of what is important about reporting? It's not just about what was said, it's about the details, the feeling in the room, the tone of the lawyers and the judge, the demeanor of the witnesses, the cat fights and snark in the media room. firedoglake gave us all that and way more. FDL was THERE - and what they knew - YOU KNEW - unvarnished and unedited with no corporate gloss added on. The FDL team all deserve to get MacArthur awards:
Brilliant job. Thank you firedoglake.
Posted by: champlain at March 9, 2007 4:52 PM | Permalink
Left winger, right winger, chicken winger, champ... if you wanted a blow by blow of the trial, where would you go, QC Examiner?
This is what my post is asking. I understand fully that the "comfort" factor for a self-declared moderate, conservative or Republican would be low. But if the information is there, it's there.
Pachacutec: thanks for your words.
Much of what you describe would be familiar to any reporter covering a big trial. The two different brains: Getting down what happened, vs. figuring out what it means (later on.) I think the part that's perhaps a little different is the tightness of the connections among the writers as a team, and the kinetic flow of a blog, especially the live Web connection with thousands of users.
It would interest me to know how the live hum of a busy site like FDL affects what you are doing in feeding "coverage" into that hum.
The next big thing, I think, will be bloggers educating the world how biases in the MSM are manifested. Meticulous research and references as performed by Firedoglake, ThinkProgress, Booman Tribune and on and on reveal the outlines of bias for each newspaper chain, corporate owned network and individual empire. Bloggers don't need mounds of capital to become relevant. It was such an eyeopener for me to compare Firedoglake to any newspaper for facts and intelligent writing. The beauty for me is to be able to chew over the arguments of diary/article and review comments for new ideas. Then to another blog to compare again. It's eleven blind men describing an elephant, who are closer to the truth than one blind man describing an elephant.
Posted by: shadrivers at March 9, 2007 5:12 PM | Permalink
I agree with everything you're saying, Jay, but there are some things to be wary of. I did a quick Google site search of Press Think, and I didn't see any mention of Cass Sunstein's book *Infotopia.* One thing he's worried about is that you can get informational monocultures. Worldchanging has a good review of Sunstein's book here:
I think this is the type of thing that mainstream reporters are worried about. And there is a basis for it. Check out this recent Kevin Drum post about the number of the percentage of rightie bloggers who accept anthropogenic climate change:
It was 0% from a sample of 59.
Anyway, I'm just bringing up the devil's advocate view. Information cocoons certainly happen to MSM as well (understatement, given recent events). And I agree that FDL has done groundbreaking work...
Posted by: JJWFromME at March 9, 2007 5:19 PM | Permalink
It would interest me to know how the live hum of a busy site like FDL affects what you are doing in feeding "coverage" into that hum.
FDL tends on a regular day to post fresh content every 90-120 minutes or so, between 8:30 AM EST and 11:00 PM EST. . . more or less. But during the trial, we had to be more fluid, mostly for reasons created by technology.
That is, the nature of our site is such that high traffic plus high comment threads (200+) can overwhelm the server. So, during times of high traffic and high engagement, we "fed" the blog faster, offering new content not so much on a time schedule as on a comment load schedule (our commenters tend to congregate in one comment thread at a time: the freshest one).
Now, there were occasional periods during the waiting. . . waiting. . . and waiting for a verdict that we did not have much of substance to report from the courthouse, but our audience really wanted to hear something, anything.
At those times, we would mix in other news or posts from outside the courthouse with more colorful, anecdotal, sometimes "personality" driven material form the courthouse. It wasn't so much "feeding the beast," however, as it was keeping the server humming, and helping our anxious, eager readers have a little fun and relaxation as they awaited a verdict. It's true, we do a lot of hard analysis, but we do a lot of entertainment and fun as well, even on a regular day. Rather often, we mix the two together, or at least, we try.
I think perhaps the more salient part of the "feeding the beast" question comes from our rather close connection with our reading/commenting community. We don't think of it as "feeding the beast" because they're not the "beast" to us. They're an integral part of the site, shaping our coverage as much as they are shaped by it. In a very realy way, they're all coauthors in a kind of real time cycle.
Posted by: Pachacutec at March 9, 2007 5:21 PM | Permalink
What FDL, some MSM and all left-wing media will not tell you is the truth----Joe Wilson, not GWB---lied.
Colin Powell's right-hand-man, (no partisan gunslinger) Richard Armitage leaked Valerie Plame's name to the press---not Libby.
But do enjoy your "reality", for what it's worth.
Posted by: QC Examiner at March 9, 2007 5:30 PM | Permalink
I was a monetary contributor of Firedoglake's coverage of the Libby Trial. And what a ride it was. In my opinion, the old style media, (print media and cable tv news' dittoscript), delivered trial updates only because they were embarrased into it by the staff at firedoglake. From the very beginning to the very end, they treated Scootergate as an unfair affair, a rather non-story event. And to watch them now, pimping for a Scootie pardon, is actually very sad for me to watch. But, now that it's over, I reflect back and wonder: what kind of coverage on just this one story would the American public have received, without the dedication of the Plame House occupants and the bloggers who supported them?
Posted by: ccmask at March 9, 2007 5:33 PM | Permalink
I know it's not like feading the beast. That's my point. The quality of connection (with users) allows for something much subtler than that. What I'm trying to understand better is the editorial advantages, if there are any, of having that live connection with interacting readers.
Ah yes, the "Wilson is a Liar!" meme.
Posted by: David Ehrenstein at March 9, 2007 5:38 PM | Permalink
Well done Jay.
I have to say I am disappointed with much of Shane's coverage of the Plame case. No one should better understand blogosphere than Shane. His book on the fall of the Soviet Union, Dismantling Utopia is one of the best on the subject. It describes the rise of first samizdat and then offset printing and how it all worked to bring down the Soviet Union, so the parallel should be clear to him, but for some reason it isn't.
Posted by: Alice Marshall at March 9, 2007 5:43 PM | Permalink
QC Examiner: Thinkprogress has the rundown on that WaPo editorial you linked to.
And UK's The Guardian told the backstory of the prewar intel that Wilson and his wife were disputing, way back in 2003.
Posted by: JJWFromME at March 9, 2007 5:44 PM | Permalink
Ah, I get it. Let me think about that a little and get back to you.
Oh, and my "beast" reference came not from my interpretation fo your question but from some backstage banter in the courthouse media room. That's a whole other angle, here: being in the "clubhouse."
Sorry for the confusion.
Posted by: Pachacutec at March 9, 2007 5:44 PM | Permalink
Well if the non-partisan Guardian says it----I believe it!
Posted by: QC Examiner at March 9, 2007 5:48 PM | Permalink
I could tell they were having a blast.
On a related note, I think a big difference between the blogs and DC journalism in this case and others is that the former seem to care so much more.
One could almost hear some reporters' bored sighs through their writing. It's been that way since the beginning of this story, the major newspapers didn't even gave it a mention for months. The bloggers may be rough-and-tumble, but to them the allegations and implications were serious, and the legal process and outcome were important.
Posted by: Andy Vance at March 9, 2007 5:49 PM | Permalink
Poor QC! I wonder how old he is ... is he an adult? If so, how can he hold a job? How can he raise children? Probably a kid.
He doesn't THINK.
Posted by: Shell at March 9, 2007 5:51 PM | Permalink
Terrific article. From a readers point of view the trial was exhilarating as seen through the eyes of the wonderful bloggers at FDL. I literally could not wait to get up in the morning to read about the trial.
I highly recommend Marcy Wheeler's book "Anatomy of Deceit" for anyone that is really interested in the truth and the backstory of the trial.
Now I am waiting with baited breath to hear Valarie Plame testify next week.
Thanks for the great article. It's nice to see FDL and the great bloggers get some recognition.
Posted by: Kewalo at March 9, 2007 6:09 PM | Permalink
Occasionally, albeit infrequently, there is still a voice which might be considered "conservative" ( for instance, Karen Kwiatkowski, who I believe published in "The American Conservative" ) which resonates with both passion and honesty. But if it is passion and honesty that you are looking for, you get a lot of bang for your buck at FDL... along with the occasional bracing shot of snark. Also a good place to go if you are having trouble finding a glimmer of hope for our fading democracy. These brave folks are still fighting for it, every day.
Posted by: Western Otto at March 9, 2007 6:10 PM | Permalink
As a loyal reader and occasional commenter on FDL, all I can say is Jane, Christy, Pac, Marcy and the team didn't miss a thing in their coverage of this crucial trial. As grim as the subject matter is -- we're talking about traitors who could care less about outing a covert agent and the possible deaths of anyone connected to Valerie Plame's network across the world -- it was a joy to watch Jane and Marcy giving their daily recaps on PoliticsTV. These two should be on every night from here on out. I'm also glad to see that Jay Rosen is giving the FDL crew their props for a job very well done, indeed.
Posted by: Tom Ballantyne at March 9, 2007 6:15 PM | Permalink
I'm a lurker at FDL, and have been for probably two years. I read (lurk) all the time, but often the comments get so far ahead of me that by the time I'm ready to hop on board, the boat has left the dock and the crew is onto a new thread. That's fine. I can tell you what I think about the synergy of the bloggers and commenters. It reminds me of a line from, would you belive it, Broadcast News. The newscaster character is taking cues from the news director in real time and describes it as if she (the director) is inside his head. Actually, the comparison is to "great sex," but let that go. I felt that way, following the trials events via Firedoglake's coverage, like I was inside the writer's head, in a good way. And I do pay the freight, hitting the paypal button whenever I can afford to.
QC, your ignorance is showing. Buy Marcy Wheeler's book, then come back.
Posted by: mh at March 9, 2007 6:19 PM | Permalink
I'm such an idiot! I thought this was the OLD Pressthink where diversity of opinion was allowed.
Do enjoy your left-wing, lockstepping, echo-chamber, new, improved Pressthink, where diversity is sneered at and marginalized. hee!hee!
Posted by: QC Examiner at March 9, 2007 6:36 PM | Permalink
I think that image of the reporter's earpiece is perfect, but instead of the voice of one editor (like, say, Fred Hiatt. . . oy!), we have the collective voices of many in our heads: many critics, many providers of hot, fresh links and insights, many happy "consumers."
For all the talk of the artificiality of virtual space relationships, the kind of writing we're doing is a quintessentially immediate experience.
Writing for the blog about the trial begins with the questions, "What do I think people want to know? If someone were here to ask me what happened, what would I say?"
Posted by: Pachacutec at March 9, 2007 6:46 PM | Permalink
QC Examiner -
you've demonstrated an important reason why i find the blogging at FDL so wonderful: the analysis is detailed and based on primary sources whenever possible.
it's not so much your assertions (wilson lied, libby didn't) that bother me, it's the absence of analysis and evidence (all supported and easily checked because of the presence of lots of links).
Posted by: selise at March 9, 2007 6:48 PM | Permalink
Andy Vance, you said: The bloggers may be rough-and-tumble, but to them the allegations and implications were serious, and the legal process and outcome were important.
Not so much rough-and-tumble as truly furious at this criminal conspiracy to lie us into unending war, destabilize the whole region so that it's easier to steal their resources, loot the U.S. Treasury of the largest surplus it ever had, get us into debt to China by borrowing to fund this mess, send our jobs overseas so that the tax base is destroyed and our children's children will be working for a pittance on a bottomless debt. I think the community at FDL shows remarkable restraint, given what they see. I've paid taxes all my life. I'm furious.
The allegations and implications in this trial are absolutely serious and the outcome was crucial. In my opinion, anyone who thinks differently is either not paying attention, is buying into the spin, or is bought and paid for.
Posted by: Lindy at March 9, 2007 6:49 PM | Permalink
I am tired of the labels: left, liberal, Democrat, etc. I believe the "like-minded" characteristic is not left, liberal, Democrat, etc., it is Americans who want their country back. It is people who know that we have been lied to, our rights taken away, people who are looking for democracy as we used to have it. How about if we are like-minded because we want our independence back? Is it impossible for people to just be doing the right thing?
Posted by: Bonnie at March 9, 2007 7:13 PM | Permalink
I saw a post at dkos years ago directing me to Emptywheel, Needlenose and FDL for more on the Plame-Wilson matter.
So I went. Oh my goodness, what I found.
Brilliant research and writing. An ability to critique the narratives of the day. An ability to ask hard questions, connect the dots, explain it to us.
But also an increasing number of fabulous readers, all of whom seemed to care about each other as well as the events of the day.
It is this wild, iterative dynamic that urges thoughtfulness and excellence on each of us, readers and bloggers alike.
Commenting at FDL can be a bit risky: will anyone respond? Will I hit a chord? Am I totally obtuse? Or am I adding value to the discussion.
It is this yearning for transparency, this peeling of the onion that goes on in the comments day after day after day, that undergirded the brilliant blogging at the Libby Trial.
The bloggers work from their passion for America--truth, justice and the American way. We urge them on. IT works.
Posted by: Alison at March 9, 2007 7:15 PM | Permalink
Thanks for this article.
This is just a quick reflection, for the time being. The FDL coverage of the Libby trial was a watershed moment, in terms of wider impact. But the groundwork for FDL being able to do such was laid long ago at FDL with Jane and Christy's blogging on the Plame case, and other important issues.
As to community loyalty? Jane and Christy and other principals at FDL have always been incredibly responsive to their readers, typically engaging in discussion through the comments when one of their posts is "up". We know also that they knock themselves out to provide meaningful and thoughtful commentary on a wide range of issues. This draws readers into the discussion, and readers, a very well-informed bunch, continually post their own commentary with links to important news stories. And, not infrequently, discussions and links in comments feed ensuing front page posts.
My take is that FDL provides, through articles and discussion, a venue for ordinary citizens to educate and be educated about major issues that the MSM has largely given short shrift. And, although a casual observer might assume that "we" speak with one voice, there is actually quite a bit of discussion and disagreement on various issues, back and forth and give and take. But, the moderators behind the scenes work very hard to make sure that discussion is to the point, educated, and remains civil.
The tremendous loyalty of the "core" at FDL comes because they believe in what FDL is doing. Community members contributed $$ to help launch Marcy Wheeler's book. Community members contributed $$ to support Plame House. Community members, who often are anonymous and work largely behind the scenes, read all of the comments at FDL and serve as "moderators" to keep nasty stuff off the comment threads- nasty stuff like internet spam, hate-filled comments about any of the usual targets, advocations of violence, etc. etc. They do this, pro bono, because the believe in what FDL is doing. Hours and hours of time spent, not only from the principals, but by the invisible folks behind the scene. Folks who have $$-paying day jobs, but as citizens, want to make a difference in a new way.
As Pach notes, the server load was indeed an issue during the Libby trial. What was interesting was that most regular commenters refrained from posting comments the live threads during the Libby trial blogging. To spare the servers. So that the FDL site did not crash from high traffic. Thus, the comments on the live threads were very largely from folks who had only recently discovered FDL. I want to point this out so it is clear that a sampling of thread comments during live trial blogging will not give a good sense of the steadfast FDL community, which has been at FDL way before anyone ever said "Fitz!".
Posted by: Valley Girl at March 9, 2007 7:37 PM | Permalink
In some sense, this was a sui generis case, because of the extent to which it turned people who took an interest into 'Plameologists'. (And that included the jury, it seems.) It's an interest and knowledge that has to be developed organically, and isn't easily assigned, so it's also difficult to transpose, or transform into the journalistic nose seen, for instance, at TPMMuckraker.
But the most interesting contrast was between reporting that by necessity relied upon only public information, and reporting built upon privileged access and confidential sources: that is, the reporting represented in the witness stand. The relative paucity of leaks from Fitzgerald's office also made a difference.
Posted by: pseudonymous in nc at March 9, 2007 9:16 PM | Permalink
I get it! QC says:
"I thought this was the OLD Pressthink where diversity of opinion was allowed."
S/he thinks this is all OPINIONS. QT, do you realize there are FACTS, not open to opinion (for their being)? For example -- gravity. Sure, your OPINION can be that gravity doesn't exist. Your choice. But is it worth anyone over age 10 to listen to, much less "debate" it?
Posted by: Shell5960 at March 9, 2007 10:24 PM | Permalink
Just a note from a lurking kossack, "Please don't feed the trolls (aka QC)" It just encourages them.
Posted by: TJ at March 9, 2007 10:27 PM | Permalink
Sorry, TJ. I (almost) couldn't help it.
Lips are sealed now. Non-troll responders are too smart.
Posted by: Shell5960 at March 9, 2007 10:29 PM | Permalink
QCExaminer: "Do enjoy your left-wing, lockstepping, echo-chamber, new, improved Pressthink, where diversity is sneered at and marginalized. hee!hee!"
In the interest of getting it right: Where facts are recognized as such, and valued accordingly.
Posted by: oregondave at March 9, 2007 10:39 PM | Permalink
TJ: "Just a note from a lurking kossack, "Please don't feed the trolls (aka QC)" It just encourages them."
This one seems maybe open to being educated. He should go read Marcy's book, and come back. And he provided a springboard to say something I think is important: "diversity" is not what it all comes down to. Truth is worth more than that.
Posted by: oregondave at March 9, 2007 10:47 PM | Permalink
and Gwen Ifill has Jon Dickerson on tonight to report on the Libby trial--and she coudda had FDL!
Posted by: Charlie Warner at March 9, 2007 11:00 PM | Permalink
I rushed away from my laptop before making what I think is an important point.
The FDL crew, imo, influenced the MSM coverage. They didn't, and this is an absolutely critical point, do so in a partisan way, even though they had a partisan view. Their coverage insisted that the framing and understanding of this trial be based on the facts presented in the courtroom. Their relentless presentation of the facts--their shoe leather journalism--made it impossible to support a narrative of poor, poor pitiful Libby.
I do believe that the beltway media would have framed this trial differently--as they are doing now in their plumping for a pardon--if there weren't six hard-working citizens reporting what was really happening.
It's kinda weird. Regular people with web access are insisting that reporters get their stories right. That they shouldn't stenograph administration spin. That they, heck, should publish the truth.
This would seem to be a no-brainer. Byron Calme and Deborah Howell would sign up, in principle. But, in practice, we've got the WaPo editorial page advocating the idea that administration sources lying on background should have a special privilege.
We citizens still have more work to do. Thank heavens for Jane Hamsher, FDL, and a broad commitment to truth.
Posted by: jayackroyd at March 9, 2007 11:26 PM | Permalink
The political press supplemented FDL quite well, I thought.
What makes me even happier than the fantastic reporting coming from FDL and a few others is the fact that there's a resulting demand for accountability coming from readers, and it's making business as usual an impossibility. I seriously don't think we'd be seeing so much fire in the Dems on the USA purge if it weren't for TPM, for example, and that in turn has been buttressed by the relentless FDL/emptywheel/TalkLeft reporting on the Plame case.
Posted by: jane_jericho at March 10, 2007 12:16 AM | Permalink
The point of the post was the extent (excellent) of the coverage by FDL/EW/TL. I know their efforts were acknowledged and very much appreciated at JOM, p.o.v. and politics notwithstanding.
As Yogi once said, "It's good for baseball..."
Congratulations and thanks to the trio.
Posted by: stevesh at March 10, 2007 1:07 AM | Permalink
"What was interesting was that most regular commenters refrained from posting comments the live threads during the Libby trial blogging."
Just caught that (thanks valley girl), and the point re: comment tone during liveblogging. Fascinating.
Posted by: stevesh at March 10, 2007 1:24 AM | Permalink
FDL is to MSM as taut is to flacid.
Posted by: kspena at March 10, 2007 1:54 AM | Permalink
Jay Rosen, FDL, Glenn Greenwald, FITZ!
I follows FDL coverage of the trial everyday, all day except for one Tuesday. On that day, I took my niece, on school vacation, to the Norman Rockwell Museum. We saw the four freedoms; Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Speech, Freedom from Want and Freedom to Worhsip. It struck me that FDR and Norman Rockwell's four freedoms are under attack. Freedom from Fear is on life support.
I think you can imagine the 'audience energy' created with such a responsive feedback loop. "Tell us what Barbara Comstock is wearing!" "Which juror didn't wear the Valentine's day T-shirt?" The FDL livebloggers were incredibly obliging.
On the day of the verdict, which came at noon, firepups stayed on FDL for hours and hours and live-"commented" news coverage of the verdict. The audience had it covered! Shuster, NewsHour, Countdown, Hardball, Larry King, Charlie Rose, NBC, CBS, ABC, Toensing, Novak, Cooper, the juror Dennis, CNN, etc.
Finally, I recognize so many of your commenters. Some are regulars at FDL, some at Glenn Greenwald. These are people I've come to know. These are people whose opinions I value.
Posted by: NeilSagan at March 10, 2007 3:10 AM | Permalink
I think one thing FDL is not credited enough with is that they pooled expertise (fdl, nexthurrah, needlesnose..). It was an exceptionally good decision on the part of all involved to come together at one platform. Hard to imagine that happening with more traditional, commercial media.
Posted by: anatomist at March 10, 2007 3:27 AM | Permalink
While the MSM was clearly aware of, and influenced by, the efforts of Team FDL, the cable networks consistently refused to take advantage of their obvious expertise.
Instead, we got a parade of the "usual suspects" doing "commentary" whenever the subject was discussed. Thus, while MSNBC in general, and Mathews and Olberman specifically, were providing decent summaries of the day's news from David Shuster, we'd wind up with Howard Fineman or Kate O'Beirne or Byron York "putting the news into context" without having any actual knowledge of the overall context.
Selise, although i get your point, this is not an appropriate forum for QC (or anyone else) to debate the evidence concerning Wilson and Libby.
Posted by: p.lukasiak at March 10, 2007 6:37 AM | Permalink
i'm a 'pre-fitz' firedogger and what a long, wonderful trip it continues to be. FDL isn't perfect. any blog worth it's salt probably couldn't be. however, FDL is America at it's best and, it has had an impact on the national discourse that few people saw coming.
a lot of the MSM is a bit unnerved by the blogs. it should be.
Thanks for the mention.
Blogs can do two things on a big story - change the filter, or eliminate it.
The FDL live blog essentially eliminated the filter and let the rest of the world observe (and comment on) the events dujour. That was invaluable and is one of the real points of blogging - info is spread, and folks who can't physivally attend the trial are still able to analyze it.
As to changing the filter, well, to each their own - that said, I have no doubt that he FDL crew were more knowledgable than most of the MS reporters there.
Points I would take from this:
(1) Bloggers at an over-covered event add little (I never thought bloggers at a convention made sense; similarly with bloggers at, for example, a live candidates debate).
(2) News organizations must be stupid - how much traffic could CNN (for example) pick up if they simnply posted live semi-transcripts of big events as FFL did?
Posted by: Tom Maguire at March 10, 2007 7:10 AM | Permalink
I also wanted to say that, while live blogging the trial, Marcy & Swopa both reminded me of golf announcers at a golfing classic. An eyewitness reporter with a microphone, quietly bringing fans up to date information on the golfer up at the tee: whispering past performances, commenting on their trademark attire, adding idle side remarks; and then bam! The golfer swings his club and he's on the green. Quiet clapping from the folks on the sidelines. Their coverage of mighty Fitz at bat dominated the field.
Posted by: ccmask at March 10, 2007 7:38 AM | Permalink
Jay, you made an execellent point about boots on the ground. Publishers and investment analysts who think they can improve profitability by cutting newsroom staff should take heed.
Posted by: Alice Marshall at March 10, 2007 7:52 AM | Permalink
FireDogLake? Bah, they ban and delete. Now, TalkLeft does too, but Jeralyn agrees that Fitz did not prove his case beyond reasonable doubt.
Posted by: kim at March 10, 2007 8:05 AM | Permalink
Instead, we got a parade of the "usual suspects" doing "commentary" whenever the subject was discussed.
yeah. This was a great illustration of how brand-driven, rather than news-driven these guys are. It's more important to present the same personalities than it is to deliver the story.
Posted by: jayackroyd at March 10, 2007 9:27 AM | Permalink
As someone who tried to provide some degree of live-blogging at this trial, I can tell you that what FDL did was pretty damn remarkable. Live blogging in a coherent manner is an almost impossible task, especially a court case, where the nuance of what is being said is almost as important as the words sometimes. And, what they did fed a nation of people dying to know what was going on in there. The MSM coverage was limited and often incorrect, and having FDL's notes available spawned a level of detailed dialog across the blogosphere that would have been impossible otherwise.
Posted by: Lance Dutson at March 10, 2007 9:46 AM | Permalink
FDL shows what can happen when a lot of people from diverse backgrounds accept and respect each other as equals and contribute to the group mind, which is greater than the sum of its parts and doesn't miss a thing.
Posted by: Mason at March 10, 2007 10:23 AM | Permalink
Thanks, everyone, for some really good comments. Keep 'em coming. ValleyGirl, those details about the operations of FDL were really interesting. Tom Maguire, thanks for dropping by.
This is from a conservative blogger, James Joyner at Outside the Beltway...
Now, if you wanted neutral reporting, FDL wasn’t for you. Then again, neither were any of the blogs. On balance, though, Mary Wheeler, Christy Hardin Smith, and the others on the FDL team simultaneously provided a great public service and demonstrated what bloggers can add to news coverage.
I am a founding member of the Media Bloggers Association, and I advise Robert Cox from time to time, so I was rooting for both teams.
"It ain't journalism."
That's from a journalist, Mark Obbie, at a Syracuse University blog on legal reporting. You can't imagine how I love this kind of thing. It's so unintentionally revealing. In my post I admitted that if you want a concise summary there were other providers who did that better. Mr. Dobbie took that ball and ran with it...
Jay Rosen weighs in on the Libby trial blog that everyone agrees did the best job, Firedoglake. I realize I gave short shrift to it, while actively bashing the remainder of the blogger corps -- especially on verdict day -- but there's a reason for that, beyond my immediate concern that the Media Bloggers Association team was MIA when it counted most.
"We work hard to inform the masses." Precious, that.
He says I am smitten.
Mark Obbie is quoted as writing:
We don't hold little coffee-klatch conversations and stare with cold contempt at the newcomer who has no idea what we're talking about. Blogs do all that, even when they are doing a good job of informing. So they're not journalism, at least not usually -- and not journalism as I care to understand it.
no coffee klatsch conversations? really? I guess Mr. Obbie doesn't have access to television news, or the editorial pages of major newspapers -- "coffee klatsch conversations" is a perfect description of the speech and prose of the bloviating "experts" and "columnists" that defines modern journalism.
The only difference is that "they" ignore their entire audience, and tell that audience what "they" want that audience to think without providing access to any alternative ideas. Bloggers interact with that audience in a medium that provides immediate access to other ideas --and that audience keeps the bloggers humble.
Additionally, as long as the live, wall-to-wall coverage and commentary on the cable news channels of the hearings concerning Anna Nicole Smith's dead body is consider the work of "professional journalists", the only reason FDL "ain't journalism" is because it is far superior to "journalism as [he] care[s] to understand it"
People who are not from the fringe left would never trust the writings at FDL because of the way they present it, but this is not true of what Merritt did. And ultimately I think that is a far greater benefit to the general public.
actually, Jeralyn was part of the FDL team, and is no less of a "liberal" than the rest of the team. The only difference between Jeralyn and the rest of the team was Jeralyn acknowledged pro-defense bias, a bias she comes by honestly as a defense attorney.
The right wingers like Lance "respect" Jeralyn solely because their "pro-Libby, right wing bias meshes with Jeralyn's pro-defense bias at points. Unfortunately, as with most things concerning this trial, Lance and his fellow right-wingers are wrong about Jeralyn's opinion of the outcome of this trial. (Lance thinks that Jeralyn favored acquital, but as Jeralyn wrote in the Rocky Mountain News "I agree with the jury?s verdict, but I feel cheated."
Posted by: p.lukasiak at March 10, 2007 1:20 PM | Permalink
Being both old and slow on top of not too flippin' BRIGHT, I, too, LURK at FDL a lot, every day, before, during and after "FITZMAS"!
That said, these "younguns" are without qualification the shinning light of what Journalism IS SUPPOSED TO BE. Further, their amazingly honest and scrupulously accurate REPORTING OF THE TRIAL ITSELF was WITHOUT PEER---matched nowhere in available media, LEAST OF ALL IN THE CORPORATE NEWS WORLD! Not Jennings nor yet Koppel or Woodward would have matched the candor and accuracy of this gang of "upstarts" who showed the world HOW THE COW IS SUPPOSED TO EAT THE CABBAGE when it comes to reporting THE TRUTH, and let none forget it!
Posted by: oldgringo at March 10, 2007 2:32 PM | Permalink
I have wondered why we have not seen Marcy Wheeler and her encyclopedic knowledge of Valerie Plame/Scooter Libby on any mainstream television discussion programs, not even PBS.
I fear it is because she is a blogger and the MSM are determined not to legitimize or publicize a blogger no matter how knowlegeable she is. I realize that Ms Wheeler is biased for the prosecution, but many of the TV pundits are in Scooter Libby's corner.
If conservative bloggers had pulled of this coup, would we see them on TV? Perhaps it is my own bias, but I think we would.
Posted by: ohioblue at March 10, 2007 3:25 PM | Permalink
"We work hard to inform the masses." Precious, that.
Yes, and the ilks, proles and minions too. Meh.
Posted by: stevesh at March 10, 2007 4:25 PM | Permalink
It is a watershed moment, no doubt, in the evolving web-enabled, journalistic landscape.
However, there is a related but less cited corollary to this pioneering enterprise by Jane et al, and that is the mauling that the likes of Charles Krauthammer are taking for putting forward scurrilous, self-serving, narratives about the Libby felony conviction.
FDL's efforts seem to have applied the brakes (at least for now) to the 'Pardon Libby' bandwagon. It must be infuriating the AEI crowd, .... and infuriated people make mistakes ....
Posted by: village idiot at March 10, 2007 4:43 PM | Permalink
Well, an executive at NPR heard my words "like-minded people..." and they set off alarms. He said that this was exactly what he feared— the like-minded getting together to cover a story. It sounded to him like spin and political boosterism. Like-minded meant the echo chamber effect. Like minded meant a mob.
That sounds like a pretty good description of the Washington press corps, actually.
Obbie didn't give "short shrift" to fdl in his original post, he never even mentioned it.
Then when his readers left comments wondering how anyone could slam blogging at the Libby trial without even mentioning the "dominating" one, it seems like other than reading a post or two he still couldn't take the time to actually research to see if his obviously preformed judgement was correct.
"I saw some intelligent posts over the weeks by your Firedog buddy. Whatever. I'm trying to say here, folks, that the blogger community -- that portion of it that laid claim to COVERING this trial by having access to the court -- is a joke. And if you think ideological rants suffice to inform the public, then good luck to you."
Which sounds more like a journalist?
Posted by: Ron Brynaert at March 11, 2007 2:31 PM | Permalink
I echo Pach in his gratitude for this post.
I thought I'd give a little more detail on how many boots on the ground we actually had. Except for a few select days (like closing statements, when we got Christy back) we had two people, plus Pach if he could make it, in the courtroom. That's actually fewer people than TV had, and some of the MSM. As the MSM did, we'd generally have one person in the court room, and one person in the media room (with the close circuit TV). Though unlike the MSM, we generally kept the same person (me and Swopa) on the liveblog. I think that was good because it meant the court room person was never getting as detail heavy as we were, doing the liveblog. In addition, during the liveblog periods, we'd always have one person "backstage." (Christy did a lot of this, as did one other person at FDL). That person would monitor servers, monitor comment threads, monitor PACER. That was a crucial position, frankly, bc when I was in the middle of liveblog, I was completely focused and couldn't really see what product I was producing. And then, critically, we'd have someone to do a wrap up post while those of us in the court room did PTV and ate dinner.
One journalist actually said to me, but you don't have to go home and write an article. Ha! On most days I did, and on all days the court room person did. I think I was one of the few people in the court room who did extensive reporting on the evidence introduced at the trial (though I was feeding a lot of this to eriposte so he could get it right away).
One thing in response to your "timing" comment. I thought the 2-a-day deadline for the MSM journalists actually served them poorly. THey'd have to have one and only one story twice a day, so that the person who was in the media room was always on deadline. In a sense, they were going from detail to macro in a much shorter cycle than we were (we'd have two hours before we did our evening posts)--which didn't necessarily serve the detail OR the macro purpose well.
Posted by: emptywheel at March 11, 2007 6:37 PM | Permalink
Oh, and I forgot--someone (usually Christy) would also do a lunch post for us.
We were kind of on the reverse schedule as the rest of the media. When court broke for lunch, I got a break. Everyone else was frantically trying to make deadline.
Posted by: emptywheel at March 11, 2007 6:49 PM | Permalink
Since I'm a journalism professor I love this stuff. I mean the details of how it works. Thanks, Marcy. What would be the correct figure for how many people you had, not at one time in the courthouse, but in DC doing Libby trial coverage for FDL?
Good to see you are back, Jay! (I was wondering what
Jay, let me see if I can risk answering your question without leaving anyone out. I hope others will correct any errors or omissions I make.
Note, not all these people were there with us at the same time, as some came in shifts across the life of the trial. Also, not all stayed at Plame House. I, for example, live in the area and stayed in my home.
The DC Roster included:
I'd be badly remiss if I failed to mention looseheadprop, who did not provide coverage from DC, but who did provide significant legal content to help place the process and the trial in context for a lay audience throughout the trial coverage period. Our indispensable moderators at the site really did keep us going as well, as Marcy has mentioned.
Also, since we're getting into the details, we did not have two people at the courthouse during voir dire. That's because, other than two pool reporters, media were not allowed in the courtroom during vior dire, only in the media room. So, although I did take a turn as a pool correspondent, I was alone that week doing our coverage from the media room.
Posted by: Pachacutec at March 12, 2007 9:49 AM | Permalink
But I see it this way:
On a meter ranging from 1 to 10, the general public's interest and/or investment in this story was maybe a 2; the Washington press corp's interest/and or investment in this story was a 6, or, at best, maybe a 7; firedoglake's interest/and or investment in this story was a solid 10 --or maybe a 10 x 2.
That explains it all.
But then another question arises. Who was right in assessing the magnitude of it all ? We'll know in a couple of years. But we don't know now.
Posted by: Steve Lovelady at March 12, 2007 10:37 AM | Permalink
I see FDL, and the 10+ niche journalism produced, as a form of communitarian journalism.
When journalists write about the "masses" and distinguish themselves from FDL's communitarian journalism, it that a defense of Social Responsibility journalism? Is it an attempt to distinguish "old" communitarian journalism from "new" communitarian journalism?
Would a journalist of a libertarian tradition speak of the "masses" in defense of her work?
When Dan Conover tells me that I don't write comments at PressThink "for the masses," does he mean a comment like this one?
Posted by: Tim Schmoyer at March 12, 2007 11:50 AM | Permalink
Our schedule was IIRC as follows:
Week 1 (voir dire) Pach by himself
Christy and one other person were involved on a daily basis backstage, but from their homes in WV and WA.
We also had people in on our passes on a day to day basis (Sidney Blumenthal came in twice, Arianna once), but they didn't do content at FDL.
Posted by: emptywheel at March 12, 2007 1:42 PM | Permalink
Jay -- Never read this site before now. When I was in the news biz game, I often argued over objectivity and what journalism should do if it is to matter. Many interesting discussions could come from those observations. But here's this: Blogging like that done at the Libby trial is fulfilling my desire for journalism to matter. Most newspapers have always trailed behind the times and only a dedicated few have risked the bottom line to give information that is necessary for our democracy. You've heard the riff; anna nicole, shark attacks, britney's head, man, that stuff demands serious news hole.
Posted by: Greg Rideout at March 12, 2007 2:15 PM | Permalink
Is there a blog award for producer of the year? Who gets the credit for putting this team of expert citizen activists together? She's a natural born killer. Go Jane!
Posted by: Neil at March 12, 2007 2:31 PM | Permalink
Thank your for your fair and balanced (snicker) assessment of the place of bloggers. Of the many, many excellent points you made, the one that knocked my socks off was your giving credit to the FDL community for demanding the sort of coverage that we got of the Libby trial.
I confess to being a member of that community. I found Firedog Lake after three decades without news because none of the news available was real -- not newspapers, not magazines, not radio, not TV, and that's even for me here in Canada, where the coverage is better than in the US.
Then came the War in Iraq. I discovered that I am still a US citizen as well as a Cdn one, and it was *my* country invading Iraq. Time to get up to speed! I am now a passionate news junkie (take that, Prof. Obbie!) Your remark about the community demand particularly resonated with me because it gives the lie to the, "Oh we can't report on all that stuff, no one would read it. Here, have some nice Anna Nicole."
The MSM has the technology, they have the skills and access, and I believe they could have the market, but despite that they choose to feed us lies. Why?
Thanks again for your kind and generous welcome to The Blogs. I believe that participatory reporting will be what saves participatory democracy.
EW said: Week 4 Jane and Swopa (Pach?)
I was there for at least one, and often times two, days out of every week of the trial. The trial was underway four days per week (Mon-Thurs) before both sides closed, and then met Mon-Fri during deliberations. Overall, I was there a little less than half the time, maybe 40%, I don't know.
I did not report for every day I was there, but participated in the coverage in my own way, interacting with commenters, feeding tidbits to the live blogger, etc.
During that first week, I also acted as something of the ambassador for our crew within the media constituency, and when we had new people coming in to do coverage, I would go to court to help make introductions, and to present something of a consistent face for our team "backstage," as it were.
Posted by: Pachacutec at March 12, 2007 3:29 PM | Permalink
Thanks, Pach and emptywheel.
Kos has his say on my post...
My favorite thing about blogging is that I can do whatever the heck I want. Yes, there are boundaries designed to maintain my credibility, but as long as I operate ethically, I can be polemic, I can do journalism, I can be an activist, I can talk about sports or put up pictures of my son. And of course I'm not alone. All blogs are like this. Maybe the huge blogging success at the Libby trial will help educate the outside world about what we do, but it's genuinely complex stuff. We're not easily pigeonholed, no matter how much easier it would be for everyone if we were simpler creatures.
He picked up on what I was trying to say, which wasn't, "blogs are great at covering trials," but: don't simplify what they do.
I was in the media room at the courthouse for two days during the trial, on behalf of the MBA. I sat between folks from FDL on one side, and Clarice from Just One Minute and a young man who I believe was from FOX on the other. A few brief observations:
1. Everyone relied on FDL. The MBA bloggers were actually told to space out our posts so that the live bloggers could be assured of having a reliable wireless connection. It didn't take much for that connection to be overtaxed.
2. When I was there, I saw bloggers and journalists focused on getting the story and getting it right. There were simple practical issues -- keeping track of who was testifying, who was on deck, and what Judge Walton was saying. (When I was there, he was reportedly battling a cold, and he frequently leaned back away from the mike, making it hard to hear him at times.)
3. Lawbeat misunderstands how loosely the MBA trial coverage was organized.
Beyond Robert's traffic directing -- coordinating who was to be in the media room and making sure press credentials were handed off -- we were on our own. The MBA bloggers were allowed a maximum of four days at the trial. The best you can do under those circumstances is drive-by reporting.
Aside from FDL and Court TV, I'm not sure there were even any MBA folks there when the verdict was announced.
Was it journalism? I think the New York Times had it right when they said that the bloggers who had been covering the case for a long time were satisfying their readers' desires for detailed information about the intricacies of the arguments and legal maneuvering.
Personally, I was trying for simple, accurate news reporting, but I wasn't there long enough, I think, to really add value.
Had I but world enough and time, I probably would have tried for more feature reporting, within the constraints of the judge's orders. I would probably go looking for untold stories -- maybe how the Libby trial fit in or complicated the courthouse routines, how courthouse regulars' reacted to the media swarm.
But all of this, I'm afraid misses a more important issue.
I have an Online Journalism Review interview with a prominent First Amendment lawyer who says this will change journalism as we know it. I'm interested in whether people think that's true. Her point is that the legal tactics used in the Libby case undermined the traditional understanding of journalists' privilege, and she urged news organizations to fight to preserve the legal protections that remain. She also acknowledged that the lack of legal resources was a significant challenge to bloggers, freelancers and small publishers.
The business models for news are shifting in a way that will result in even greater reliance on citizen journalists. Like it or not, the issue isn't whether bloggers should be involved in covering big stories such as this. They will, because it works, both for bloggers and for news organizations.
The real issue is getting the best quality reporting talent on these big stories, and making sure they have the resources and the legal backup to do the job.
Posted by: Kim Pearson at March 12, 2007 8:08 PM | Permalink
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Posted by: scwnrle hionsrtd at March 13, 2007 9:36 AM | Permalink
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Posted by: ulfvmchad ynkqechu at March 13, 2007 9:36 AM | Permalink
Bloggers at Libby trial???
I followed JOM from time to time, discovering that from time to time means you lose your place pretty quick.
I can imagine Jeralyn felt cheated. For months, Talkleft's folks were slavering at the chance to get Rove and Cheney and bush and the night janitor.
We know that Plame was not covert, because Fitzgerald isn't prosecuting Armitage. If she had been, Armitage would be a traitor and so forth. However, the road from Armitage to Bush is unclear, so he's going to get a pass. He should, since the evidence is that she wasn't covert.
Talkleft got the same spittle-spewing, gloriously drunk about the Duke LAX case, but got rational later on. I figured maybe they'd find their way back to the real world on the Libby case, too.
Posted by: Richard Aubrey at March 13, 2007 11:48 AM | Permalink
I like to describe FDL as a group mind at work. Christy, Jane, Marcy, Pach, and TRex led the way with their articles. The tech people kept the blog afloat and functioning. Some readers posted comments, others asked questions, and many people posted short messages about other breaking news with links to the sites where more information was available. Usually we had at least one lawyer knowledgeable in criminal law lurking and available to answer reader questions regarding legal matters that cajme up during the trial if Christy's and Jeralyn's attention were occupied by the trial. Many FDL readers have been obsessed about the Libby case since shortly after Novacula reported on Valery Plame's employment. I believe the FDL readership knows more about what happened than any other group in the country with the exception of the coconspirators who outed her and Fitzgerald's team.
FDL shows what can happen when a lot of people from diverse backgrounds accept and respect each other as equals and contribute to the group mind, which is greater than the sum of its parts and doesn't miss a thing.
Posted by: sanateseri at March 14, 2007 7:39 AM | Permalink
Nobody much seem interested in Josh Marshall's obsession with the right-wing's bogus accusations of voter fraud. Josh has been on about that stuff for at least 5 years. Well, guess what, the Attorney General of the United States is about to resign/get fired/get impeached largely due to Josh's obsessions with muck of that sort.
The traditional news organizations (the ones famously described as providing "the view from nowhere") get whipsawed by the powers that be precisely because they let those powers set the agenda. FDL, TPM, et.al. simply have their own agendas. Whether various folks like those agendas or not, they are making a difference.
Posted by: William Ockham at March 14, 2007 11:07 AM | Permalink
But my point remains: If you ask most Americans who Libby is, their answer is going to be, she's the waitress at the local diner who always makes sure the coffee is hot.
This is an inside game, played by inside players.
No one else much gives a shit.
Posted by: Steve Lovelady at March 14, 2007 4:10 PM | Permalink
We know that Plame was not covert, because Fitzgerald isn't prosecuting Armitage. If she had been, Armitage would be a traitor and so forth. However, the road from Armitage to Bush is unclear, so he's going to get a pass. He should, since the evidence is that she wasn't covert. [emphasis not in original]
Since we now know that Wilson was covert through her own sworn testimony, as well as through the comments of congressman Waxman, vetted specifically by CIA Director Hayden, I am waiting for spittle-spewing, sadly-delusional, Richard, to reappear and admit (by Richard's own standards) that Bush should now *not* get a pass.
Posted by: village idiot at March 16, 2007 9:00 PM | Permalink
It's possible Plame is lying. That's done, from time to time, you know. And Waxman said she was covert, but did not take the step to say she was covert under the IIPA. Why do you think that is? Simple. She isn't/wasn't. So Waxman can say "covert" and get people like you all fired up, since you aren't smart enough to wonder why he didn't say anything about the IIPA.
In addition, she said she had nothing to do with her husband's being picked since she didn't have "the authority". That's both true--she didn't have the authority--and irrelevant, since she didn't order it, she suggested it. It's also effective, since it got past you. And that differs from the findings of the Senate committee on intel, which found she did do the suggestion thing.
And Plame will never be called on perjury, never threatened as Toensing was, because the dems can't use it.
You forget, village. The rules of the game are well known.
Posted by: Richard Aubrey at March 19, 2007 9:51 AM | Permalink
"It's possible Plame is lying." Right there's Occam's Razor in action for you: let nothing sway the conspiracy. Damn those facts: she's perjured herself! So elementary Watson.
Posted by: George Boyle at March 20, 2007 12:06 AM | Permalink
The absence of Fitz' prosecuting for outing a covert agent is interesting.
I'd like to have Fitz up before Congress defending his decision not to discuss Plame's status in court and not to prosecute anybody for outing her. You think the dems would like to see that? Yeah, me neither.
Posted by: Richard Aubrey at March 20, 2007 11:43 AM | Permalink