Of Blogs and Men

OF BLOGS AND MEN….Dan Drezner poses a good question today: why did CNN news chief Eason Jordan resign following his inflammatory remarks at the Davos conference?

Most of this debate is on whether Jordan’s blog-fueled exit is good or bad. For me, there’s another question ? did the blogosphere really force him out?

I ask this after reading Ed Morrissey’s timeline of Jordangate in the Weekly Standard. Assuming that Morrissey’s account is accurate (see below), then the media heat on Jordan was never particularly strong ? and it was dying down the day before he left CNN.

By coincidence, I was chatting with a friend about this just a few hours ago. I went a bit further, though: just how influential is the blogosphere, anyway? Were we really responsible for Trent Lott’s downfall? Dan Rather’s resignation? Keeping the National Guard story alive? Sure, those stories got a ton of play in blogs, but the fact that blogs played them up doesn’t mean they were responsible for what happened afterward.

I don’t have an answer to this, but I have some guesses. Based on several reports I’ve read, I suspect that blogs played a role in the Trent Lott affair, but not as big a role as we think. Blogs just didn’t have that much influence back then, and there were other things going on behind the scenes. Our role in Rathergate was definitely bigger, but in the end I doubt that things would have turned out differently if blogs didn’t exist. The facts were damning no matter where they came from, and other media outlets were all over the story within a few days. Finally, as Dan points out, Eason Jordan’s resignation looks suspiciously like it had nothing to do with the blog storm over his remarks. It’s not clear what really happened there.

I’m a little stumped about all this. It’s pretty obvious that blogs can kick up a big fuss over certain kinds of stories, and it’s also pretty obvious that blogs have a considerable indirect influence by virtue of getting read by a lot of (mostly younger) reporters and Hill staffers who themselves have influence. Beyond that, who knows? Certainly blogs act as a kind of distributed research service for other, more conventional, media outlets, and at times they can also produce pressure of their own.

But how much? I’m not even sure how to ask that question, let alone answer it. Maybe someone smarter than me will tackle it someday.

UPDATE: Brendan Nyhan has more here.