Bloggers drive hoax probe into Bush memos

When history books are written, bloggers’ real contribution to the 2004 election may well turn out to be in providing leagues of amateur sleuths to fact-check political controversy…. The Bush memo story has shown the Internet’s broader power of linking thousands of readers together, as much as it has demonstrated the intrinsic power of blogs themselves. —John BorlandBloggers drive hoax probe into Bush memos (ZD Net)

Thanks for the link, Mike.

CBS’s Dan Rather is holding his ground on the veracity of the memos, saying the memos come from a reliable source.

Drudge is down at the moment, but yesterday I was amused to see that Drudge was putting the “th” in “Rather” in superscript.

A blog is the perfect vehicle for an analysis of a complex document, since you can actually link to the document and let your readers inspect it yourself. While an online version of a story written for another media may offer the same service, typically reporters are trained to summarize for the benefit of the masses. Most readers won’t take the time to check original sources, but bloggers are already used to writing for small audiences of highly committed readers. Throwing in a link that would only be of interest to a handful of obsessive readers (who might also be bloggers) helps perpetuate a line of inquiry that the traditional media might not continue.

When I blogged about the memo story the other day, I gave in to a momentary whimsical fancy, imagining that I might be able to make an exciting career out of my knowledge of geeky stuff like typefaces and typewriters.

My “Writing for the Internet” students on average guessed that a list of significant innovations in online writing all took place within their lifetimes (with the exception of the dates for the founding of IBM, Apple, and hard drives, each of which was placed, on average, in the early 80s). Bloggers are writers who are perhaps more aware than most about issues involving writing and technology. The technology of writing is so ubiquitous it is largely transparent to those who haven’t studied it.

Would the Bush memo story have moved across the blogosphere so quickly if the amateur knowledge required had involved, say, Shetland ponies and inner tubes?

Er… come to think of it, if there were reports of a presidential scandal involving Shetland ponies and inner tubes, the mainstream media outlets wouldn’t need any help from bloggers to push the story along.

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