Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Bottom-Feeding Bloggers of the World, Unite!

Do blogs like this one have any influence at all? According to one of my anonymous fans, the answer is a resounding No. "Considering most all the people you supported for office lost and most you trashed on won I think influence and this blog is a stretch don't you BO?," he/she snipes. Of course, the very existence of that remark is proof that this and other local blogs have an impact.

Let's imagine a world without the blogosphere, as described in the Daily Caller. President Kerry would likely be in his second term, and "most Americans wouldn’t know that he acquired three purple hearts without bleeding in battle."

That story, and many others, were broken by what is politely called the "new media," or less charitably, bottom-feeding bloggers.

There are three reasons for this development.

First, we all know that more conventional media like newspapers and TV are losing money and staff every day. Instead of sending a small army to cover meetings at night, many local meetings now go uncovered.

Second, they'll deny this, but the mainstream media protects the establishment. It makes sense. Without access, it's much more difficult to write a story, especially with dwindling manpower. Nowhere is this bias more evident than in The Morning Call's coverage of Allentown.

Third, the Internet has made it possible for people like Michael Molovinsky, Noel Jones and yours truly to reach you, without worrying about mainstream gatekeepers. Molovinsky, in his pithy style, detests being called a journalist. But he has broken stories concerning Allentown School District's hiring of Joyce Marin as well as the Queen City's planned hockey arena, to name just two more recent examples. Noel, writing from her bunker in Easton's West Ward, has provided an independent perspective on Shadtown, from loud churches to Easton's school board, which is even louder.

What about me? I blog like a dog on a bone. I gnaw and gnaw until there's nothing left. Here's where I think I made a difference over the last year.

Our Divided Local Parties. - I have written numerous blogs about divisions within the Lehigh County GOP and among Northampton County Democrats, providing details about party bosses Walt Garvin and Wayne Woodman that you just won't see anywhere else.

Forgotten County Government. - John Stoffa claims that County government, which runs our jails and repairs our bridges, has usually been the "best kept secret" in the world. Not anymore. I try to expose what is really going on in both counties, although I do a much better job in Northampton, having devoted over 350 stories to Northampton County alone during 2011.

Zoning wars. - Land use is often ignored by daily newspapers, but often give insights into what is going on in a community.

Accountability in local government (Callahan). - This blog broke the story that Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan wanted Hector Nemes out as Executive Director of the Parking Authority. This blog also exposed Callahan's Sweetheart Deal, in which the BPA bought a parking deck it does not need, at an inflated price, from Callahan crony Lou Pektor. You may hear more about that deal down the road.

Accountability in local government (Dietrich). - When County Council member Tom Dietrich accuses a fellow Council member of bribery during a public meeting, that's something we have a right to know. An Office of Open Record Order says so, thanks to a Right-to-Know request that Dietrich resisted and even tried to fight in Court with a Sunshine Act violation. That little episode caught the attention of Express Times Editor Joe Owens.

Accountability in local government (Gilbert). - When Bruce Gilbert was nominated as Fiscal Affairs Director over a $300 million budget, this blog raised questions about his ability to manage his own finances. Gilbert's name was withdrawn.

Gracedale Coverage. - Although I strongly advocated Gracedale's sale and filed a losing lawsuit to stop a referendum, I covered the topic in far more detail than you'll find in any newspaper, with nearly 300 posts over the last year.

LVEDC Tweeter, the tweet heard 'round the world. - In early June, one of LVEDC's PR people tweeted, "We start summer hours today. That means most of the staff leave at noon, many to hit the links. Do you observe summer hours? What do you do?" Despite a lousy attempt at damage control, both daily newspapers sunk their fangs into that story, and reverberations were felt as far away as The India Times.

Allentown Cop's Taser Assault on 14 YO Girl. - That's another story that went viral, primarily because I was able to get my grubby hands on a surveillance video showing a big cop zap a 14 year-old girl who had her hands up in the air in apparent surrender. So far, there are over 546,000 views on Youtube.

So yes, I do think we bottom-feeding bloggers have influence. We do not replace the more conventional sources of news, but sometimes we break stories independently and provide a perspective that might otherwise be overlooked.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

In fairness. Mainstream media usually makes sure their stories are fairly accurate. Some slip up but for the most part it is mostly true.

Blogs like this one are fast and loose with the truth. This blog ignores some facts and makes others up.

You won't read an honest thing about Charlie Dent or John Stoffa. On this blog Ron Angle is a saint.

So pat yourself on the back all you want but your harm far outweighs your good.

Anonymous said...

I got dizzy reading this one so late but not to worry, I'm going to print it out and read with my shit of the day in the morning, thanks Bernie, as it's going to be too cold outside later in the morning to go get the morning rag of a newspaper...

Anonymous said...

I thought it was proven that the "swiftboaters" lied about Kerry? That he was to blame for there success by not responding quikly enough. So the bloggers ruined a career. I guess negative influence is still influence.
Also may I point out I am a Dem who voted for Bush in the second election because of multiple reasons. The swiftboaters were not among them.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, With all the Media cut backs etc. so much news can't be covered.Bloggers like yourself bring the news to the public and in turn forces the main stream media to cover it.Bloggers like
yourself are very much appreciated by readers who want to be informed.In fairness the good you provide far outweighs the harm.In fairness I didn't know about the use of tasers in Allentown until you posted it. Keep up the good work! 'Southern Man'

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I inspired you to write this Bernie. Sadly this "influential" blog could not influence the county electorate. So sad for you Ron wont be standing to take an oath tomorrow. Snicker Snicker!

Anonymous said...

What time is the swearing in tomorrow in Northampton county? Will you be there Bernie?

Anonymous said...

If people were interested in this stuff, the local print media would not be cutting back. Really, who cares about this stuff. There are close to a million people in this area and only a few blog and read the blogs. Most likely not even a fraction of a percent. No wonder the local print media doesnt cover this stuff.

Anonymous said...

When you are neutral and go after someone or some issue you are really good. You lose your credibility on some of your prejudices and that weakens your presentations. For ex. Your articles on the financial games in Bethlehem were excellent. They tended to be weakened by your allegiance to Dent and sometimes that challenged your credibility. That is the attacks which were good aimed at the issues lost it when they were turned on the personalities. That may be the problems with blogs altogether. They lack fairness which newspapers attempt to have. Although most get caught in their own prejudices. I read much of what you write with a desire to learn more about an issue. Do you provide a public service? Yes. Although I don't agree with you 100% of the time. I am not one of those who take cheap shots at you and sign annon. I sign annon because I do want my privacy but want you to hear another point of view.

Brooke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Your coverage of local municipal supervisor and ZHB meetings are my favorite reads. The reporting quality is much more technical than the newspapers could do (even if they did cover local meetings), your coverage is free and there's no full page gold buy back ads to sift through!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Bernie O'Hare said...

"Blogs like this one are fast and loose with the truth. This blog ignores some facts and makes others up."

I am fast and loose with opinions, but try hard to get my facts right. If I make a mistake, I will always correct it, and have done so many times.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What time is the swearing in tomorrow in Northampton county? Will you be there Bernie?"

I have never attended a swearing in for any elected official, except for Judge Dally.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Brooke" is Jon Geeting, who inadvertently posted a comment at the NOC blog. Here's what he says.

Honest.

"Blogs have an influence, but not so much in the way you're talking about. I doubt if any of those posts moved many votes.

The most effective bloggers are coalition merchants.

Over a long time horizon, you're showing co-partisans what issues go together, and that eventually forms the basis for new political coalitions on issues.

For instance, the long term project of my blog is to persuade Democrats that strengthening urban property rights, and taxing land rents instead of property improvements goes with their pro-equality agenda at the federal level.

I hope that over the long term, this will result in a durable left political coalition between labor, the real estate industry, black and Latino voters, and environmentalists."

Bernie O'Hare said...

Jon, Well, good luck with that, then. Thanks for telling us all about "coalition merchants" who aim at their fellow partisans.

Geez.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" I am not one of those who take cheap shots at you and sign annon. I sign annon because I do want my privacy but want you to hear another point of view."

And that is why I will allow anonymous commentary. I encourage different views and come down only on anons who hide behind it like little cowards to launch their personal attacks.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" That may be the problems with blogs altogether. They lack fairness which newspapers attempt to have."

I'll disagree with you here. No question I have people I like and don't like. I am honest about that. But so does everyone, including a news reporter. So it is logically impossible for any one of them to write an "objective" news account, hard as they might try.

I also see another bias, and that is one in favor of the establishment or incumbents. A reporter doesn't want to be denied access or ad revenue, so he watches his step. A blogger like me is not out soliciting ads and pretty much is denied access by many people anyway and has to rely on RTKL requests.

Anonymous said...

My reading habits have changed where I hit the blogs and Patch before heading over to the Call and ET websites.

Your coverage of the zoning hearing boards is some of your best work. You can't find that coverage anywhere else.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"If people were interested in this stuff, the local print media would not be cutting back. Really, who cares about this stuff. There are close to a million people in this area and only a few blog and read the blogs. Most likely not even a fraction of a percent. No wonder the local print media doesnt cover this stuff."

If you don't take an interest in your government, your government has an annoying way of taking an interest in you. That's why newspapers exist in a democracy. That's why this blog exists, contrary to Geetings' nutty claim about "coalition merchants."

A perfect example if this is redistricting. Bill White is outraged about this, and rightly so. But where was he a few years ago, when redistricting reform was attempted? Where was I? Where was any of us?

I believe that in a democracy, news organizations have an obligation to tell people what they need to hear, not just what they want to hear. Increasingly, they fall short of that mark.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Your coverage of the zoning hearing boards is some of your best work. You can't find that coverage anywhere else."

Thanks, I really enjoy covering them, too.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"So sad for you Ron wont be standing to take an oath tomorrow. Snicker Snicker!"

This is the kind of mean-spiritd anonymous comment that will not last long this year.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I'm going to print it out and read with my shit of the day in the morning,"

Nice to be of some use.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bernie, is Deitrick the one?

Bernie O'Hare said...

No, it's Cusick and ferraro again.

Anonymous said...

Bernie, even though I am one of the people you love to skewer, I enjoy your blog.

I think that you do provide a service, albeit one that the Morning Call takes advantage of for free.

Does that ever bother you?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Nope. I consider it a compliment.

Anonymous said...

I work for a newspaper in the area. I go to many sources for fact and opinion about politics. Yours is one of them. I think the 'bottom feeder' designation is quite a bit over the top. I may disagree with you, you may even be wrong, but I check other sources, too. As should everybody, on every subject. It's not that you're not to be trusted; it's that a person who is interested in politics should trust no one, as the X-Files used to say.
Anyway I'm glad you're writing, and I'll keep reading as long as you're writing about the Lehigh Valley.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 11:11, the morning call has harvested a number of idea's from my blog with no mention or attribution. they have even lifted an exclusive story, and attributed to a" local blogger" without using my name or blog title. the recent story by paul muschick about the taser incident, and utube video, avoids mentioning bernie, while the morning call reporter manuel gomez, got the utube from bernie. are you guys that insecure about your jobs that you find this justifiable? i suppose you are, considering you commented anonymously. i'm going to take your comment, and mine, and cut and paste it onto the current post, where it belongs.