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A taste of their own medicine



Published: Wed, April 13, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The "blogosphere" couldn't congratulate itself enough when some of its members first raised the possibility that documents obtained by CBS News questioning President Bush's military service were, if not outright forgeries, at the least highly suspect. The ensuing controversy led to the dismissal of several network staffers and the earlier-than-planned retirement of anchor Dan Rather.

The blogosphere, for those among us who have real lives, is the world in which blogs -- individual Web sites, or logs, that comment on anything the blogger finds interesting -- operate.

After Rathergate, high-minded panels of deep thinkers were convened to ponder whether blogs were the news source of the future and would displace what they dismissively called the "MSM," for mainstream media.

The bloggers, at least some of them, were cruising for a hard lesson in mainstream journalism, and they got it in the case of the Terri Schiavo memo.

Under murky circumstances, a "talking points" memo, said to be circulating among Republican senators, surfaced on ABC News and in The Washington Post. The memo said that the controversy over Schiavo was "a great political issue" for Republicans, and that it would excite the party's "pro-life base" and be a "tough issue for Democrats."

Disinformation

A host of bloggers immediately reported authoritatively that the memo was a Democratic forgery -- one blog even identified the authors as young aides to Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada -- and declared ABC and the Post liberal dupes for going with it. But believing it so didn't make it so.

The circulator of the memo -- inadvertently, he insists -- was Florida Republican Sen. Mel Martinez, a former Bush Cabinet officer, and the author a member of his staff, Brian Darling, a former GOP lobbyist with indirect connections to House Republican leader Tom DeLay of Texas.

Oops.

Maybe some bloggers should join Dan in retirement.

Scripps Howard New s Service




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