Saturday, December 30, 2006


UMich historian, ex-AP reporter scrutinizes blog landscape's effect on news


Brighton historian scrutinizes new landscape New book delves into the blogosphere


Friday, December 29, 2006

(byline just says: "News Special Writer")

The news media are in a state of change. Over the past decade, traditional outlets such as newspapers and evening television news have been supplemented, and sometimes supplanted, by 24-hour news stations and cable news channels, online news sites and blogs. Brighton-based historian Judy Daubenmier focuses on this new media landscape in her new book, "Project Rewire.''

Part of the Informed Citizen Series, which aims to collect the best blog entries on U.S. social and political issues, "Project Rewire'' is a book of media criticism. It specifically looks at how Internet media cover traditional media. Other books in the series include "Untidy: the Blogs on Rumsfeld'' and "Special Plans: the Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence that Led to War.''

"The whole idea of the series is to try to find the best articles on one topic because usually when you read the Internet you start out on one topic and you click on a link and pretty soon you're reading stuff that's far afield from where you started out,'' says Daubenmier, a Brighton resident and part-time lecturer at the University of Michigan. "I did read a lot and found a lot of blogs I didn't know about and pruned them down.''

A former Associated Press journalist, Daubenmier is an enthusiastic blogger herself. She was a researcher for the 2004 documentary "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism.'' As part of that project, she had to monitor Fox News programs. She still watches Fox News every day and writes about it for News Hounds at, a blog that records about 20,000 visitors a day.

"I think we need neutral media. I don't want to return to the 19th century partisan papers,'' Daubenmier says. "I think we need neutral, honest brokers of information. But at the same time I think the left needs to counter the constant criticism of the media by the right wing in order to keep it in the middle. That's why I think blogs have a role to play, providing media criticism and acting as a watchdog to the media and providing some kind of competition to the media because they do break stories.''

"Project Rewire'' begins with a thoughtful essay by Daubenmier on "how the media got disconnected.'' The piece analyzes problems such as concentration of ownership, self-censorship and bias. The second part of the book provides concrete examples of media criticism and commentary by bloggers, with topics ranging from John Kerry's manicures and George W. Bush's National Guard service to Hurricane Katrina and the Downing Street memo on the war in Iraq. Bloggers featured in the collection include some colorful characters such as the Cranky Media Guy and Pundit Pap as well as high-profile journalists such as investigative reporter Greg Palast and New York University professor Jay Rosen. Their articles are passionate and immediate, a style of writing that's easier on the Internet without the pressure of publishers and advertisers, Daubenmier says. "There's just more freedom on the Web, I think. There's just more of an edge to the writing.''

The blogs on John Kerry's supposed manicure during the 2004 election campaign are a case in point. J.C. on the Media Matters' blog analyzes Fox News' fixation with the manicure story, while Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo follows a fabricated Fox news story about the manicure hour by hour from its first appearance to its eventual retraction.

"I had done a post on the same thing, but I liked the way he showed how the story developed during the day. It's a different product than what you get when you read a story in the newspaper, which is a finished product. Here you see the story develop throughout the day, dynamic. That's one of the strengths of the Internet,'' Daubenmier says.

Despite the problems in the current media that surface in her book, Daubenmier has a positive outlook. "I am hopeful because people have a hunger for information,'' she says.

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