Cheer Up Jeff: We’re Doing OK!

Jeff Jarvis has been one of the few voices criticizing the blogosphere for our participation thus far in the 2004 campaign. Jeff is a stand-up blogger (and person, I assume, although I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him in ‘real’ life), but I think he’s missing the boat slightly when he says he’s “been a bit disheartened in recent days by the incessant gotchaism of some blogs and more commenters in our new medium.”
Jeff doesn’t point to specific examples, so I have no idea whether he includes TTLB in his disappointment, although he’s made clear he takes a dim view of the Swift Vets controversy in general.
I’d argue that we in the blogosphere have two roles: first, to try to bring stories that aren’t getting attention into the public eye, and second, to ensure that the stories that are being widely reported are covered accurately and completely. We try to change the focus of the debate, and we try to improve the quality of the debate.
Focusing on the Swift Vets story (although Jeff specifically did not limit his comments to it), it seems undeniable that the blogosphere played some role in moving the story into the public focus. But to be frank, blogger triumphalism aside, I think that was going to happen anyway. The Swift Vets had a compelling story, and it was only a matter of time before Big Media walls crumbled and they received a great deal of attention. Whether focusing on their story was a good thing or a bad thing is, I think, a matter for every voter to decide for themselves. I think it is relevant, I believe it is safe to say Jeff thinks it is not.
But now, with the Swift Vets story in full public view, we’re in our secondary role: improving the quality of debate. And I have to say, I think our performance has been absolutely stellar. Blogs like Captain’s Quarters, BeldarBlog, and others have been devoting serious effort to the story, and arguably doing more hard-core research than professional journalists seem willing to devote. And of course I would hope my own contributions in researching 527’s, campaign financing, and other topics will be viewed as useful, substantive contributions to the debate.
So, to Jeff, I’d say: cheer up, friend. The new media which you’ve done so much to foster is young, and we’re passionate, and perhaps sometimes a little too eager to go for the quick kill. But overall, I think we’re doing a damned fine job of adding to the public debate — and we’ll get better from here…