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By now most of you are aware of the brewing scandal involving Air America and the allegations that they diverted money meant for inner-city kids and seniors to itself. For a brief recap before I go on, here’s the gist of the story from the Washington Times:
Did Al Franken’s liberal radio network Air America divert city money for the elderly and inner-city children to itself? That’s the question people should be asking this week after the revelation that the New York Department of Investigation is looking into whether hundreds of thousands of dollars were illegally transferred from a Bronx community center to Air America. Only a community paper and a few Internet bloggers seem interested in what could be an egregious case of illegal funneling of tax dollars to a private, partisan organization.
In late June, city officials designated the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club, a nonprofit organization that runs mentoring programs for children and day care for Alzheimer’s patients, a "non-responsible city contractor." Investigators found "significant inappropriate transactions and falsified documents that were submitted to various City agencies." The city subsequently suspended the club’s contracts, which run well into the millions.
It turns out, according to sources quoted anonymously by the Bronx News, that the mishandled money went to Air America. One source claims that $480,000 was wrongly transferred. The city investigation is concentrating on Charles Rosen, the club’s president for 15 years, and Evan Cohen, the development director, who is a former chairman of Air America. Mr. Cohen resigned from Air America in May after the network’s leasing plans in Chicago, San Francisco and elsewhere fell through.
Seems pretty newsworthy, right? Wrong. A Google News search (at the time of this writing) on this story leads to about 5 pages worth of hits, with approximately 95% of them being conservative blogs and/or news and opinion outlets. The New York Sun has made this story a priority (see here, here, here, and here for more). The so-called newspaper of record, however – the NYTimes, has not. As of this writing, a search of "Air America" for the last week on the NYTimes article page search points to exactly zero articles.
What could be the reason for this? We all know that if this were Rush Limbaugh, we’d be reading about it on the front page for weeks – whether it be about his addiction to painkillers or his ‘controversial remarks’ about Donovan McNabb. Remember that? The MSM devoted unlimited amounts of ink and webspace to reporting Limbaugh’s comments on McNabb, as if that were the most important issue we were facing at the time. And on the story regarding his addiction to painkillers, the media still foams at the mouth to give us updates on the latest developments in that case.
But you’ve hardly heard a sound out of the MSM on the Air America scandal. Why? I believe it may have something to do with the MSM pushing back against the blogosphere. CBS News got their heads handed to them on a silver platter and Dan Rather had to show the proper amount of regret over National Guard documents that were shown on the Sept. 8, 2004 edition of 60 Minutes Wednesday (which incidentally was cancelled less than a year later due to ‘bad ratings’) – documents that were shortly thereafter proved to be unauthenticated thanks to the diligent work of Powerline, Rathergate, and many many others in the blogosphere. In simple terms, the blogosphere delivered a "smackdown" to CBS News. Since CBS News is considered part of the big media that so many complain carries an unmistakable liberal bias, the larger point was that the liberal media’s credibility had been dealt a serious blow by citizen journalists across the blogosphere, most of whom had probably never stepped foot inside a newsroom.
As a result of that – while acknowledging that the blogosphere is now a force to be reckoned with – many in the MSM took the opportunity to make known their feelings about bloggers, and they weren’t exactly of the warm and fuzzy variety. A noteable first among them? Jonathan Klein, former CBS executive VP who defended Dan Rather and CBS against charges that the National Guard documents were fake. His now-infamous comments (11/22/04):
"In contrast to 60 Minutes, bloggers have no checks and balances and you couldn’t, I agree, it’s an important moment because you couldn’t have a starker contrast between the multiple layers of checks and balances and a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas writing what he thinks."
It should be noted that Klein is now the president of CNN.
Earlier that same month, former CBS News Washington correspondent Eric Enberg had this to say about blogger coverage of the elections:
Big plans and big claims are to be expected from folks – pajama-clad or not – who are dabbling with new technology and new modalities of public expression. As a retired mainstream media ("MSM" journalist – and thus a double-dinosaur — I don’t begrudge these knights of the blog-table their grandiose dreams. But I worked on a school paper when I was a kid and I owned a CB radio when I lived in Texas. And what I saw in the blogosphere on Nov. 2 was more reminiscent of that school paper or a "Breaker, breaker 19" gabfest on CB than anything approaching journalism.
Then there’s Nick Coleman, columnist for the liberal Minneapolis Star-Tribune who was so incensed by Powerline’s audacity to question things he’s written that he went ballistic on them in what could only be described as a vicious personal attack in late December 2004. That was, of course, after he’d already denigrated the rest of the blogosphere in September 2004:
I have been a reporter longer than most bloggers have been alive, which makes me, at 54, ready for the ash heap. But here’s what really makes bloggers mad: I know stuff.
I covered Minneapolis City Hall, back when Republicans controlled the City Council. I have reported from almost every county in the state, I have covered murders, floods, tornadoes, World Series and six governors.
In other words, I didn’t just blog this stuff up at midnight.
And as for being a political stooge, unlike the bloggies, I don’t give money to politicians, I don’t put campaign signs on my lawn, I don’t attend political events as anything other than a reporter, I don’t drink with pols and I have an ear trained to detect baloney."
Most recently, you, me, and other bloggers have come under criticism from sports columnist Nancy Clark of the Des Moines Register. In her column, Clark wrote:
But I think "journalism of assertion" is just as pervasive in sports. Lies and rumors about coaches and players in Iowa City – accepted as fact until proven otherwise by the mainstream media – have sadly become routine. Ask Steve Alford. Ask Jennie Lillis.
Read the blogs if you want. Read the message boards. But do it for entertainment, not information. Don’t accept anything you read on them as truth unless it has been independently verified.
Usual scenario: A loser tries to make himself seem important by posting information that makes him appear to be an insider, "in the know."
What Ms. Clark has apparently forgotten is that the blogosphere rose from just a bunch of people with differing opinions to media factchecker status for a reason, as Ed Morrisey points out here (colored emphasis on links mine):
Knowing what we do about the MSM’s feelings towards us pajama-clad bloggers out there discussing the latest issues or fact-checking the latest scandals, could it be that the position the MSM is taking on the Air America scandal is of a "show of power" mindset? In other words, assuming they even wanted to cover it (and face it, at this point the NY Sun has provided enough food for thought to give the rest of the media outlets some meat to chew on), perhaps they’ve decided they’re going to show those in the blogosphere who keep them on their toes the most (like the Radio Equalizer, author/blogger Michelle Malkin and radio host/blogger Hugh Hewitt) that they (the MSM) won’t be pushed into writing anything unless they want to? Is this their way of saying "back off, small fries. We’re the big boys and the game is going to be played by our rules"?
Saturday morning update: Michelle Malkin has a must-read on all the latest on the Air Enron scandal.
Linking up with Wizbang’s Carnival of the Trackbacks.
Mid morning update: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Please make sure to read the ST welcome message while you’re here, grab a cup of coffee, and feel free to peruse the ST blog. I hope you like what you see and will return! Thanks mucho to Glenn for my first Instalanche
Mid morning update II: Welcome also to Captain’s Quarters readers! And a big thanks to Captain Ed for the nice comments about the ST blog
Muchas gracias to the bloggers linking up to this post and to all visiting and commenting!
Early afternoon update: Thanks, Patterico, for the link and a big welcome to your readers! For ST regulars, make sure to click on that link to read Patterico’s post on how many things bloggers have done that Nancy Clark hasn’t Also, hello Anchoress readers!
Mid afternoon update: A big howdy to Michelle Malkin readers!