*Learning the wrong lessons

LEARNING THE WRONG LESSONS…. I don’t want to dwell on the controversy surrounding Maureen Dowd using content from TPM without attribution, but some on the right are using the incident to draw the wrong conclusion. A prominent conservative site called Hot Air, a project created by Michelle Malkin, considers the incident evidence of media bias.

After noting a recent blog post at the Anchorage Daily News that quoted the Daily Kos without attribution, Hot Air complains:

This makes twice in the span of four days that a major newspaper’s been caught cribbing material from nutroots blogs, which stands to reason. According to a survey of more than 200 journalists recently conducted at BYU, “despite equal awareness [of lefty and righty blogs], journalists spend more time reading posts in the liberal blogosphere.” Contain your surprise. […]

[Journalists are] taking more than just ideas, champ. In fact, the beauty of MoDo’s snafu is that not only does it show a major player in the media being led around by nutroots talking points, it involves her lifting stuff from a blog that’s actually called “Talking Points.” Glorious.

DougJ noted how amusing it is to see “a blog called ‘Hot Air’ making fun of another blog for being called ‘Talking Points.'”

Nevertheless, the larger point is a subject that comes up from time to time. Media professionals who admit to referencing blogs seem more likely to rely on liberal sites than conservative ones (Drudge notwithstanding). For the right, this is powerful evidence — if journalists are spending time on left-leaning websites, it must mean they’re left-leaning, too.

But there’s another, more plausible, explanation. Nate Silver explained yesterday, “The reason that liberal blogs are cited more often in the mainstream media is because they are more plentiful and more widely-read than conservative blogs. Traffic on the Internet in general tilts toward the young and the more highly educated, demographics which — at least for the time being — are associated with more liberal politics. And yes, I do think that liberal blogs are ‘better’ on average than conservative ones (with plenty of exceptions on both sides) but you can reach this conclusion without having to invoke qualitative conclusions at all.”