No Disputing It: Blogs Are Major Players

The LA Times realizes what we in the blogosphere already knew :)

These days, CBS News anchor Dan Rather and his colleagues at the network’s magazine program “60 Minutes II” are enduring an unusual wave of second-guessing by some of the public and fellow journalists.

For that, they can thank “Buckhead.”

It was a late-night blog posting by this mystery Netizen that first questioned the validity of documents Rather cited Wednesday as proof that George W. Bush did not fulfill his National Guard duty more than 30 years ago.

Buckhead refuses to further identify himself, other than dropping hints that he is a male who lives on the East Coast — preferring to proclaim that the scramble to verify the contentions in his posting marks an extraordinary achievement for a medium that has operated more as an underground world of ideological venting than a source of legitimate news.

But Buckhead is vehement about one thing: He acted alone when he posted, to the conservative website, what was widely believed to be the first allegation that the CBS report relied on documents that could have been forged.

“Absolutely, positively, on my own, sitting at my computer in my bedroom just before midnight — but not in my pajamas,” he wrote in an e-mail exchange with The Times. “But once I posted the comment to Free Republic I was no longer working alone, and that is the real point of the story about the story about the story.”

That story began Wednesday, 19 minutes after the “60 Minutes II” broadcast began, when another FreeRepublic poster, TankerKC, noted that the documents were “not in the style that we used when I came into the USAF…. Can we get a copy of those memos?”

The Grand Forks Herald notes this as well:

If you’re a media buff – and who isn’t, in America in 2004? – then circle Thursday, Sept. 9, on your mental calendar. Because that’s the day weblogs came into their own.

And politics and journalism never will be the same.

What happened Thursday is that webloggers or “bloggers” latched on to a controversial “60 Minutes”/CBS News story – and then worked the thing, with a stubbornness and tenacity that would have done credit to a pack of bulldogs or a turn of snapping turtles – or, yes, an army of investigative reporters.

As a result, CBS was forced to respond within a single news cycle. And although the network eventually stood by its story, more holes are showing up in the thing almost by the hour, and there’s a fair chance the network will have to retract.

This may have been the first time a TV network was forced to respond so quickly to an Internet critique. But it won’t be the last time for America’s networks, newspapers or other institutions, because bloggers now are responding to events not as opinion writers but as fact-checkers and skilled reporters.

Viva la blogosphere!!