James Oliphant of the National Journal presents the news that the U.S. media has gone partisan. In this cockamamie world, wouldn’t you know, progressive media outlets often produce journalism that aligns with a progressive White House.
“It’s been a familiar pattern since President Obama took office in 2009: When critics attack, the White House can count on a posse of progressive writers to ride to its rescue,” writes Oliphant in a piece titled “Progressive Bloggers Are Doing the White House’s Job.”
True, no doubt.
The question, however, is whether that’s important or new. To advance his case, Oliphant relies on a sweeping characterization of trends on the ideological Internet:
The Obama administration had the good fortune to come to power just when the forces undermining the traditional media became truly disruptive, creating a Web-based royalty. And those who came of age, who mastered the new tools, were largely in step with the administration—in many respects mirroring the young Turks in Obama’s ranks who used those tools in similar ways to get the president elected.
Some issues with those two sentences: Oliphant doesn’t specify just what traditional media-undermining forces are, so we’ll have to guess; he doesn’t say what “coming of age” means in the blogosphere, so we’ll have to guess.
Whatever those things mean, take it from a longtime veteran of left-right Internet political brawling: “The liberal blogosphere was robust in the George W. Bush years. Conservatives felt like we were falling behind the curve,” says 51-year-old Ed Morrissey, a senior editor at the conservative Web site Hot Air and a guy who’s been blogging for more than 10 years. “It’s much easier to play offense than it is to play defense,” notes Morrissey, noting that in the Bush years, liberal bloggers were on the attack.
And the way Morrissey tells it, things in the Bush era were pretty much the flip side of the coin that Oliphant discusses in his piece. “By and large the conservative blogosphere was approving of George Bush at least until later in his second term — not because it was being paid or got brain implants from Karl Rove,” says Morrissey, who says that the main difference between the two eras is that the liberal blogosphere has greater entree with the mainstream media. Breitbart News’s John Nolte puts a fine point on that: “It really only matters when the MSM is complicit. If there is ever another Republican president, right bloggers will be nowhere near as effective in going to bat for their guy as the left has for Obama. The left is more effective because the MSM is sympathetic and eager to help.”
As to Oliphant’s characterization of lefty media’s coming of age over the past six years, Breitbart News Network’s Washington editor Jonathan Strong notes, “I don’t see a huge dominance of the left in the Obama era online.”
Thing is, Web media outlets on both sides of the political divide are maturing. Take a look at the right side:
NewsBusters, the extremely active site that polices the mainstream media for liberal bias, got its start in August 2005, giving it more than three years to come of age in preparation for the Obama years.
The Gateway Pundit, a site that pounds away at the conservative issues of the day, launched in late 2004, giving it about four years to come of age in preparation for the Obama years.
Hot Air, a marvelous gathering place for conservative opinion, launched in April 2006, giving it almost three years to come of age in preparation for the Obama years.
Breitbart News, a site that speaks quite well for itself, launched in 2005, giving it about three years to come of age in preparation for the Obama years.
RedState, which self-brands as the “most widely read right of center site on Capitol Hill,” launched in July 2004, giving it about four years to come of age in preparation for the Obama years.
PJ Media (formerly “Pajamas Media”), a conservative opinion and news operation, launched in 2005, giving it about three years to come of age in preparation for the Obama years.
The Daily Caller, among the most aggressive of conservative sites, launched in 2010, but it came of age very quickly under the Obama administration.
Vince Coglianese, the Daily Caller’s executive editor, says conservative Web sites have prospered in the Obama years, but not necessarily just because the opposition occupies the White House. “The mainstream press and the liberal press have given us space to rise. We’re seeing conservative reporters starting to pick up what the left-wing press has ignored.”
In cementing his argument, Oliphant writes, “The new landscape has allowed the White House communications shop do what it does best: Figure out new ways to bypass the mainstream media.”
At some point, Beltway reporters have to stop calling the Internet and its impact “new.” As this timeline attests, blogging is getting old, to say nothing of conventional political coverage on the Internet. Time to stop being surprised that a medium with such low barriers to entry would provide opportunities — equal ones — for both liberal and conservative media outlets.