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The Watershed Election

Tomorrow, with at least the voting part of the election behind us (with only the legal part possibly hanging over us), we’ll hear talk about the role of blogging and the web and how it came of age. I think that’s right but there’s a part of it that I haven’t heard discussed.

Memogate, Dan Rather’s bizarre use and defense of fake documents is often mentioned as the turning point—the blogosphere was instrumental in uncovering the non-story behind the story. There’s some truth to that, but its impact hasn’t been fully appreciated. What I’ve noticed happening since Memogate is the use of bloggers as sources in the mainstream media. I’ve seen at least two syndicated columnists cite bloggers for their analysis or for facts they’ve uncovered. I don’t remember that ever happening before. It’s as if the Memogate story gave blogging credibility.

I think the real story of blogging is depth—the opportunity to go deeper into a story than you can in the 750 words you usually get from a newspaper op-ed. And the reason for that depth is cost—the web is cheap. Adding 1000 words doesn’t cost much. Information wants to be free, as the saying goes, so I do get a lot of it. But the quality of that information is helped by the low cost of quality. It’s a little ironic because one of the attractions of blogging is to make a simple quick comment on something in the news. But the opportunity to go deeper is one of the aspects of blogging that makes it so appealing.