Monday, 17 November 2008

Beating the MSM at their own game

One of the amusing aftershocks of the US election was the post-mortem twitching of the Republican party - specifically, the immediate scapegoating of Sarah Palin. This culminated in a series of revelations about her supposed ignorance: she didn't know Africa was a continent, not a country; she couldn't name the countries of NAFTA. This was seized upon not only by right-wingers with a grudge but, naturally, by victorious liberals looking for some easy gloating. And boy did they.

Want to guess the problem with this? It didn't actually, you know, happen. As the NY Times tells us, it was all an elaborate hoax. The apparent source, Martin Eisenstadt of the Harding Insitute for Freedom and Democracy doesn't, in the mundane sense of the word, exist. As he hotly denies here.

Following Nick Davies' description of the practice of "churnalism", it should be no surprise that several major news outlets fell for this in the rush to be first with a story. But there was a theory bandied around at one stage that blogs were better than that. Less invested in being first, less tied to the professionals, more intelligent, more sceptical. It's a good theory.

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