Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Bottom-Feeding Bloggers of the World, Unite!
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.