May 21, 2009


It's a brave new world. More than thirty-five years ago, Timothy Crouse wrote the seminal Boys On The Bus, detailing for the first time how the press--specifically types like Robert Novak and David Broder, among others--operated as a kind of hive mind, which Crouse coined as "pack journalism":

(R)ight at the outset Crouse identifies the "womblike conditions" of the bus and/or plane as giving rise to "the notorious phenomenon called 'pack journalism,' " and goes on: "They all fed off the same pool report, the same daily handout, the same speech by the candidate; the whole pack was isolated in the same mobile village. After a while, they began to believe the same rumors, subscribe to the same theories, and write the same stories."

At a precociously early age, Crouse understood some essential but little-known truths about journalists and journalism: that journalists are deathly afraid of being "wrong" and thus tend to stay within parameters set by the pack; that journalists want "to be on the Winner's Bus" because "a campaign reporter's career is linked to the fortunes of his candidate" and they don't "like to dwell on signs that their Winner [is] losing, any more than a soup manufacturer likes to admit that there is botulism in the vichyssoise"; that "journalism is probably the slowest-moving, most tradition-bound profession in America," refusing "to budge until it is shoved into the future by some irresistible external force."

Well, look out, boys, because as Media Matters Senior Fellow Eric Boehlert chronicles in his new book, Bloggers on the Bus, there is a whole new group of people on that bus, and they won't be swayed by the hive mind of the old media. In fact, they thrive on being the outsider. And to the horror and consternation of those boys so comfortably entrenched within the Beltway Bubble, these upstarts are actually grabbing their audiences....and doing their job better than the old guard.

The liberal blogosphere was birthed from the outrage of the offenses of the Bush administration and the search for sanity amid the crazy-making and incestuous relationship between the White House and the press corps. Vastly varied backgrounds and unlikely histories coalesced into a formidable force that not only cowered the administration and Congress at times, but helped carry our first African-American president into office. But not without some bumps along the way.

For every triumph like getting a clearly shaken Chris Matthews to apologize for his misogynistic statements about Hillary Clinton, or a nervous John McCain to refuse the endorsement of Rev. Hagee, or empowering Sen. Christopher Dodd to agree to filibuster retroactive immunity in the FISA bill, we've had lows like the intense bifurcation of the blogosphere over the Democratic Primary, and the disappointing arm's-length distance the Obama White House has kept his liberal supporters.

During this time, we've developed a brand new roster of go-to people for information: John Amato, Digby, Susie Madrak, Arianna Huffington, Jane Hamsher, Markos Moulitsas, Josh Marshall, Howie Klein, Marcy Wheeler, all of whom play prominent roles in Bloggers on the Bus (is it at this time that I mention the glaring omission of my work from Bloggers on the Bus? ;-P) We've adapted our approaches and focus, we've spent hours pouring over arcane and wonky reports, we've connected dots between different sources and we've uncovered a narrative that in drips and drops has been proven correct.

In Bloggers on the Bus, Eric Boehlert has talked to these new guards and chronicled the liberal blogosphere's growing pains and victories. As someone who was right in the middle of all this, blogging my little heart out, it's fascinating to read a bird's-eye view accounting of everything that was happening. Eric is here to talk about his book and take your questions.

Please join me in welcoming Eric to C&L.

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