Networked journalism at work

A bipartisan posse of bloggers managed to out Ted Stevens — everybody’s favorite punchline these days — as the senator who had put a secret hold on a bill to allow us to search and destroy pork in federal spending.

An unusual collaboration between Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Internet bloggers on Wednesday led a senator to publicly acknowledge that he’d been blocking a vote on a government accountability bill.

The admission by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, also offered a glimpse into the increasing role that online pundits play in U.S. policymaking.

Stevens’ confirmation that he was behind the legislative ‘hold’ on the bipartisan legislation came a day after Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, posted a Web log entry asking colleagues to cooperate with bloggers who were trying to identify who was using the legislative maneuver to stall a vote. . . .

The legislation, by Sens. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., would create a database that people could access online to learn the worth and the recipients of government contracts, including those secured through pork-barrel spending, or earmarks. . . .

‘When you have InstaPundit and RedState, some of the most influential conservative bloggers, working with (left-leaning) DailyKos, that’s sort of a powerful grassroots alliance,’ said Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor.

But blog reporter Paul Kiel, who posted confirmation of Stevens’ announcement on, said he doesn’t see himself taking on a greater role in policymaking.

In this case, he said, the activism was about greater public disclosure, not any ideological issue. ‘We consider ourselves to be in the tradition of traditional journalism,’ Kiel said in a telephone interview. . . .

Frist wrote, ‘I am calling on all members, when asked by the blog community, to instruct their staff to answer whether or not they have a hold, honestly and transparently, so I can pass this bill.’

There is a textbook example of networked journalism.

Here are the TMP Muckraker report, the Sunlight Foundation report, the Porkbusters plea, and Mark Tapscott’s roundup.

Where’s the Pulitzer for bipartisan, pro-am networked reporting?

  • A pat on the back for the blogging community. I’m kind of disappointed it’s over as it was fun to watch.

  • Yep, you could say Stevens has had his tubes tied.

  • Does this mean Alaskans will be so embarassed that they won’t re-elect Stevens?

    I don’t think so.

    This is why they need term limits. Why more people aren’t clamoring for them is beyond me.

    What about Senator Pat Murray, D-Seattle, who has proclaimed,

    “I tell my colleagues, if we start cutting funding for individual projects, your project may be next.”

    Humans will never be able to stop pols from wasting money that isn’t theirs. This is precisely why we have to starve the monster every chance we get (that means tax reductions).

  • Elliott

    A pat on the back for staying with a story that the MSM reported.

    With nothing ‘new’ to report, the MSM had to abandon the story, while politico bloggers could keep examining (and over-analyzing) it. After all it was bloggers that gave the story legs for the two weeks its been since Coburn’s office pointed to Stevens.

    Perhaps its the role of the blogosphere to flog the dead horse until someone finally notices, and that’s okay.

  • Jeff….

    no, I don’t think this is “”networked” journalism quite the way it’s being talked about around the blogosphere. This is a kind of “citizen journalism” that is *not* hyperlocal–the kind of citizen journalism that informs citizens and gets them talking about issues they might have overlooked.

    Networked journalism, from what I and many others are beginning to understand–has more to do with finding stories, researching them, and then investigating. What’s gone on here is citizens (albeit rather high-on-the-totem-pole citizens) brining information to the people that might have languished on a back page somewhere, and the seeing conversation develop around it. This is promoting civic discourse in the new town square of the internet.

    And it’s probably a good thing to keep the two–networked and citizen journalism–separate. One is still an experiment, the other something that’s been going on for a bit. To quote Len Witt:”If we remove the words citizen, public, civic from the equation, it will be too easy to forget that this is about public, civic, citizen participation. This is not just about helping news operations to get a free staff or even developing better coverage, it’s a way of getting an engaged public to help build a bigger, better and stronger democracy.”