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The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual report on American media engages in quite a bit of blog bashing, including its lament that as the number of MSM reporters erodes:

“we may well rely more on citizens to be sentinels of one another – whether it’s soldiers blogging from Baghdad or young radio reporters covering local towns…. The worry is not the wondrous addition of citizen media,” the report maintains, “but the decline of full-time, professional monitoring of powerful institutions.”

The report complains that

“Among blogs, there is little of what journalists would call reporting (study finds reporting in just 5% of postings).”

(They don’t explain how they calculated that.)
However, the report fails to note that MSM sucks at monitoring powerful institutions. An excerpt from the White House correspondent Helen Thomas’ forthcoming book, Watchdogs of Democracy? The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public. Says:

Of all the unhappy trends I have witnessed–conservative swings on television networks, dwindling newspaper circulation, the jailing of reporters and “spin”–nothing is more troubling to me than the obsequious press during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. They lapped up everything the Pentagon and White House could dish out–no questions asked.
Reporters and editors like to think of themselves as watchdogs for the public good. But in recent years both individual reporters and their ever-growing corporate ownership have defaulted on that role. Ted Stannard, an academic and former UPI correspondent, put it this way: “When watchdogs, bird dogs, and bull dogs morph into lap dogs, lazy dogs, or yellow dogs, the nation is in trouble.”

Bloggers have frequently raised questions and reported stories that later made their way into mainstream media, including news about Trent Lott, Dan Rather, Abu Ghraib and others that the report doesn’t mention.

Discussing media trends, the report notes that both Google and Yahoo! News aggregate content from other media, which is likely to begin charging the services for content in 2006. That’s clearly going to be a court battle.
While Google culls from 4,500 news sources, they note, Yahoo is focusing more heavily on the judgment of six sources — AP, Reuters, Agence France-Presse (AFP), the Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor. Users also can select their own sources from a list of 14. (Yahoo also includes blog posts in its news search results.) Says the report:

If Google News is about mining the Web for maximum depth, in other words, Yahoo News is more about navigating it within clearer limits for maximum choice.

Posted by B.L. Ochman