The MSM blogs!

Is a new pecking order emerging?

Well, here’s something new—politicians are taking blogs seriously! The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz dropped this juicy little tidbit in his column this morning. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

The mushrooming number of political blogs on newspaper and magazine Web sites has altered the terrain of the 2008 election. Campaign officials have learned to feed the bottomless pit of these constantly updated compilations, leaking favorable tidbits — a new poll result or television ad — and quickly disputing negative items.

In short, journalists and political strategists find themselves sparring more and more over smaller and smaller items on shorter and shorter deadlines.

Granted, Kurtz is obviously talking here about blogs that run on newspaper and magazine Web sites, a phenomena that wasn’t fully mature during the 2004 election cycle, but really, take out the words “newspaper” and “magazine” in his first sentence, and what you get looks awfully close to one of those standard 2004-vintage “Blogs are making a difference” stories.

Yes, politicians are taking blogs seriously—but, it seems, mostly if those blogs are affiliated with well-known print publications. Here’s an interesting question to consider: Yearly Kos aside—which drew all of the major Democratic candidates this past August—are we seeing hints of a MSM/independent hierarchy developing in the political blogosphere?

As Kurtz tells it, the various presidential campaigns seem much more comfortable complaining to — and reaching out to — bloggers at mainstream publications than they ever have with the independents out there in the larger blogosphere. This makes sense, as in many cases these bloggers are familiar faces to the campaigns, known entities who have worked elections past — political reporters for the affiliated print publications (The Des Moines Register’s David Yespsen, Time’s Karen Tumulty and Joe Klein.) Moreover, these familiar faces come with massive readerships (and journalistic rules to guide them). With bloggers like that to leak information and opposition research to, why would candidates take a chance on someone they don’t know? This isn’t to say that non-MSM-affiliated blogs aren’t going to play a role in campaigns present and future, they certainly are. But it’s worth noting that old print media types are getting into the blog game in a big way, and they’re bringing along their rolodexes.

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.