Chris Suellentrop has a Slate piece on how political campaigns are using bloggers to advance their agenda. He wonders whether some of the campaigns that had Markos Moulitsas on the payroll were the same ones that Kos was shilling for on his site, and mentions that John Thune in South Dakota had a couple of bloggers on the payroll as well. In that case, he planted stories on the weblogs to channel them into the mainstream press. Here’s how he sums up the new game:
The lesson for a campaign is obvious: Got a story you can’t convince a mainstream reporter to run? Leak it anonymously to a blog on your payroll. Then get a local reporter to write a story on the controversial, gossipy, local political blog. Soon everyone in town will be talking about the story you leaked to the blog. Voila! Eventually a mainstream news organization will run a story on the rumor that “everyone is talking about.” Or they’ll do a “what people are buzzing about on the Internet” piece. And no one will know that the blog post was a paid placement until after the election.
Honestly, I can say that this doesn’t disillusion me one bit, because I never bought into the idea that blogging was somehow a more virtuous enterprise than any other form of punditry or opinion journalism. Once you have something of value you can bring to the table, somebody’s going to come around handing out money. And there are always people who are going to take it.
Update: Digby says right wingers are worse, which is of course true. I thought everybody already knew that. Personally, I aspire to a higher ethical standard than “better than right wing sleazeballs.” Digby also makes the point that this really started with Matt Drudge, which is of course true. Thanks to Lyn for the pointer.
I’ve gotten a couple of other emails on this as well, and they mainly make the point that Suellentrop is too hard on the liberal bloggers in question. And I think they’re right. If Jerome Armstrong believed he was hired for his skills and not for what he could offer, then he’s completely innocent. In any case, as the article points out, he hung up his blogging spurs for the duration of his consulting engagement.
And if you really want to do further reading on the topic, check out the outbound links on this post at Change for America.