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How blogs can be more powerful than traditional press

LA Times Staff Writer, Terry McDermott, cites the Talking Points Memo blog, which drove the U.S. Attorneys story, as “proof that Web writers with input from devoted readers can reshape journalism.”

The world headquarters of TPM Media [Talking Points Media] is pretty much like any small newsroom, anywhere, except for the shirts. And the dog. And the quiet. Most newsrooms are notably noisy places, full of shrill phones and quacking reporters. Here there is mainly quiet, except for the clacking keyboards.

It’s 20 or so blocks up town to the heart of the media establishment, the Midtown towers that house the big newspaper, magazine and book publishers. And yet it was here in a neighborhood of bodegas and floral wholesalers that, over the last two months, one of the biggest news stories in the country — the Bush administration’s firing of a group of U.S. attorneys — was pieced together by the reporters of the blog Talking Points Memo.

The bloggers used the usual tools of good journalists everywhere — determination, insight, ingenuity — plus a powerful new force that was not available to reporters until blogging came along: the ability to communicate almost instantaneously with readers via the Internet and to deputize those readers as editorial researchers, in effect multiplying the reporting power by an order of magnitude.

It was a December post by Josh Marshall, who owns and runs TPM, about the firing of a U.S. attorney in Arkansas, and TPM’s continuing reporting that broke the story that’s taking the White House by storm. McDermott’s article is a great read for those looking to understand the power of blogs.

What’s the import for lawyers? Couple points. One, to understand the significance of the discourse taking place via blogs and the news stories that develop from blogs. Getting into that discourse by blogging on your niche area of the law gives you exposure and reputation enhancement as a trusted and reliable authority never before possible.

Two, the ability to shape public opinion. Lawyers are often involved in causes, whether on their own behalf or own behalf of their clients. Blogs can be much, much more powerful in shaping opinion and getting news coverage than traditional lobbying or PR.

BTW, we don’t begrudge TPM’s slight dissing of LexBlog back in December ’05. This lawyer blog gig is alive and well.

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