By Kevin O'Keefe

Legal newsroom of the future brought to you by Talking Points Memo

Can’t help but wonder if the legal newsroom of the future hasn’t arrived after reading this article from Monday’s New York Times, which profiles political blogger Joshua Michah Marshall and his blog Talking Points Memo.

Marshall recently received the prestigious George Polk Award for legal reporting, based on the coverage Talking Points Memo provided of the fired U.S. attorney scandal that rocked headlines in early 2007. Bestowers of the award noted that TPM’s diligent journalism “sparked interest by the traditional news media and led to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.”

And it didn’t require a huge staff or budget to do. The picture above shows TPM’s newsroom in Manhattan. It’s nothing fancy…I count seven staff members and an equal number of computers, in a space no bigger than LexBlog’s conference room. But they’re producing great content that’s turning heads, and the payoff speaks for itself:

Traffic has continued to grow. Mr. Marshall said that on average over the last 18 months, the sites have had 400,000 page views a day. He put the number of unique visitors a month at 750,000 (about 60 percent of the traffic of The Nation, a long-established left-wing magazine).

Who needs a big newsroom when you can be just as successful with a small one? Talking Points Memo is living proof of how things have changed in the news business. Today, it isn’t size that matters…it’s how you use the people and resources you’ve got available.

Plus, Marshall is continuing to buck the stereotype of bloggers (who the Times call “clichéd pajama-wearing, coffee-sipping commentators”): he is well educated. He has a background in journalism, formerly serving as editor of The American Prospect magazine. And he understands that to become a reputed name in the news business, bloggers have to build themselves a reputation from scratch.

This new breed of reporting, which Marshall doesn’t hesitate to call journalism, is turning heads in the media world. Quoted in the article, Dan Kennedy, media critic at Northeastern University, hits the nail on the head:

What Talking Points Memo does, he said, “is a different kind of journalism, based on the idea that my readers know more than I do.”

Writing on a blog for his journalism students, Mr. Kennedy called the announcement of the Polk award “a landmark day for a certain kind of journalism.” Talking Points Memo, he said, “relentlessly kept a spotlight on what other news organizations were uncovering and watched patterns emerge that weren’t necessarily visible to those covering just a small piece of the story.”

He added, “This is crowd sourcing — reporting based on the work of many people, including your readers.”

Sure, there are journalists working for dailies across the country who still scoff at blogs. But as Talking Points Memo and sites like The Huffington Post continue to earn respect in the industry, dismissing blogs as unprofessional or unreliable is gradually going out of style.

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