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August 21, 2007

Help Make my Blowback Post to Michael Skube a Little More Sound; to Run With It

By this afternoon I need a better list.

Okay, with the help of some people in comment threads at Daily Kos, at PressThink, over email, I have the heart of my reply to Michael Skube and his post, Blogs: All the noise that fits.

It’s a little signal for him (to contrast with the noise.) A reading list, with different kinds of complications—some big, some small—to his tales of virtue and greatness in reporting and blogging.

Of couse I am not writing to him but to readers of the LATimes website, who should know about the blowback from his post and do already to some extent. (UPDATE: The Blowpack piece is now published at the LA Times.)

This is what I pulled together—draft version—as my list of somewhat representative, by no means definitive or even halfway-complete list of cases. Just 500-600 words I could at this point include in a 1,200 word reply the asked me to write. My initial picks from your suggestions and my own ideas are:

August, 2004. Chris Allbritton goes to Najaf . Reporting for, his reader-supported blog, during the major fighting around the Imam Ali Shrine, Allbritton manages to get inside to interview members of the Mahdi army and report what’s happening; he’s then arrested by the Najaf police under live fire but lives to write about it.

June, 2007. Pet-food scandal ignites blogosphere. Pet owners frustrated with the limitations of the news media self-organize into a national network of sites and share news about tainted foods that may have killed thousands of pets across the country.

March, 2007. Firedoglake at the Libby Trial. Popular lefty political blog provides the only blow by blow coverage of the trial by splitting the work among six contributors who bring big knowledge to bear for a committed-to-the-case readership; news media repy on the blog for its updates and analysis.

2003 to present. Groklaw the go-to source for coverage of SCO v. IBM. Law blog—one obsessive blogger plus readers— takes on saturation coverage of key lawsuit involving open source software, becomes the authoritative source of knowledge on the case for participants in the case.

September 2004. Joseph Newcomer provides comprehensive examination of disputed Killian memos in CBS report. A computer type-setting expert uses his knowledge to cast serious doubt on the authenticity of documents 60 Minutes relied on in its story on President Bush’s Air National Guard service.

February, 2006. NASA political appointee resigns Graduate student and science blogger Nick Anthis finds out that 24-year old George Deutsch, a political apppointee accused of trying to silence NASA climate scientists, lied on his resume about having a college degree. Deutsch resigns.

2007 to present. Blogger Michael Yon reports from Iraq. Supported primarily by donations from readers, independent journalist Michael Yon--a former Green Beret—is spending 2007 embedded with soldiers whose courage and sacrifice he admires, and whose stories he tells, mostly recently from Anbar province.

December 2006-April 2007. Talking Points Memo drives the US Attorneys firings Into the National Spotlight. Mixing old fashioned legwork with perseverance over months and lots of help from readers, Josh Marshall and his TMP Media empire accumulate evidence “from around the country on who the axed prosecutors were, and why politics might be behind the firings.” (Which was in the LA Times)

December 2006. investigates Noka Chocolate. Gourmet food blog provides the only in-depth investigation into “world’s most expensive” chocolatier’s deceptive marketing practices.

August, 2005 publishes its series on toll roads as a business. Among the investigation’s findings: “Local governments in Colorado have agreed to deliberately impede traffic on existing highways near a toll road in order to protect the toll roads’ investors.”

June, 2007. scoops News & Record on its own layoffs. As the paper clams up, its staffers, ex-staffers, and readers use blog comments and email to create the only detailed public account of layoffs at the daily newspaper in Skube’s backyard.

February 2006. The Politics of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. In a three-part series pulling together a lot of scattered information, citizen journalism site ePluribusMedia investigates the impact of politics on the funding, diagnosis and treatment of Iraq war veterans suffering from PTSD.

March, 2006. Californian Republican Uses Phony Pic to Show a Peaceful Iraq. Daily Kos and other sites show that a photo posted by Republican Congressional candidate Howard Kaloogian purposting to show a peaceful Iraq is actually a scene in Istanbul, Turkey. Kaloogian later loses his primary race.

2005 to present. Katrina Timeline. Members of the ePluribus Media community create a detailed timeline of key events before, during, and after the August 29th, 2005 hurricane made landfall at New Orleans, with over 500 events, fact-checked and sourced. It continues to be updated as the story stretches onward.

May-June 2007. The Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog is a collaborative public health blog hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services to advance dialogue between citizens, experts outside the government and health officials on how best to prepare for an influenza pandemic, a natural disaster requiring preparation on every level (government, community, family and personal).

August, 2006. Porkbusters, the Sunlight Foundation, and TPM Muckraker expose Congressional earmarks and the Senator who placed a secret hold on a bill to put information about federal fund recipients online.

So that’s what I have so far. It’s not a “top ten” anything but a list of highlights and more ordinary examples showing different kinds of blog reporting ventures and informational quests.

I need it to be better. Check and improve my examples, rewrite them if you can. Get better links or suggest additional links within the examples we have.

And I need a more cases, especially from beyond politics, and outside the circle of open left politics (Daily Kos home turf) complete with killer links in the simple form I asked for last time:

Make it look like this and we’re golden

December 2006. investigates Noka Chocolate. Gourmet food blog provides the only in-depth investigation into “world’s most expensive” chocolatier’s deceptive marketing practices.

Use the comments and feed examples formatted like those above and you will help make my Blowback post to Michael Skube more informationally sound. Meanwhile, I will be writing the other parts.

Skube’s way is still making waves and what I said is still being debated, so we’re good if we post this afternoon, a lesser good if we don’t.

Use the comments to make suggestions for my list.

Posted by Jay Rosen at August 21, 2007 2:35 PM