The WaPo has hit piece on Bill Roggio which is, at first sight, an example of the usual "blogger falls foul of stuck up MSM hack" article that have become all too common over the last couple of years. But this one is a little different, IMO. In order to understand the rest of this post his rebuttal needs to be read because I think it shows clear evidence of what I'm talking about.
In my day job I do high tech product marketing and business development and one of the standard techniques in the business, one first developed by IBM, but honed to a fine art by large high tech companies in all sorts of niches, is what we call "spreading FUD". FUD is "fear uncertainty and doubt" and spreading FUD is what the large incumbent company does when it sees a threat on the radar screen from a start up. FUD tends not to focus on the "product" as the company, making unverifiable and frequently untrue, claims that the company is risky financially or possibly in violation of some patent or some other rumour. Good FUD will have a basis in truth and will smear that nugget of bad news as widely as possible in an attempt to imply guilt by association. Good FUD will probably involve damning with faint praise - "remarkable what they have managed to achieve on a shoestring budget but is it sustainable?" and other similar comments. Good FUD doesn't necessarily try to beat the competition, it just tries to minimise its importance, something like "well yes of course doing 5GigaOojams/sec is good but its no good doing that unless you can get the data in and out in managable chunks".
So is the WaPo FUD? Well do we see an example of unwarrented guilt by association? damn straight we do, the article elides Mr Roggio's embed with an entirely separate story where misdeeds are alleged:
Roggio's arrival in Iraq comes amid what military commanders and analysts say is an increasingly aggressive battle for control over information about the conflict. Scrutiny of what the Pentagon calls information operations heightened late last month, when news reports revealed that the U.S. military was paying Iraqi journalists and news organizations to publish favorable stories written by soldiers, sometimes without disclosing the military's role in producing them.
Not surprisingly Bill rebutts:
In an email to Mr. Finer expressing my displeasure with being labeled a military information operation, Mr. Finer suggested I read the entire article. I assured him I did. The title and subtitle are not meaningless to the context of the article; it is implied I was a tool of the military, when in fact the military had no influence whatsoever in what I said from Iraq.
Do we see damning with faint praise. Check
He raised more than $30,000 from his online readers to pay for airfare, technical equipment and body armor. A few weeks later, he was posting dispatches from a remote outpost in western Anbar province, a hotbed of Iraq's insurgency.
Makes it look like the shoestring budget doesn't it? like it's a one off? you see the unspoken subtext? "$30,000" was a bit of a struggle to raise so isn't it good that us "real journalists" have secure budgets to ensure we always have the feet on the street. And then there is this combination slur/faint praise
After military officials in Baghdad said Roggio could not be issued media credentials unless he was affiliated with an organization, the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning research organization in Washington, offered him an affiliation, according to an entry on Roggio's blog. He and two other bloggers launched a new Web site a month ago ( http://threatswatch.com ), where he has posted many stories about his time with the Marines. Most provide detailed accounts of patrols or other outings on which he accompanied U.S. forces.
Firstly the "couldn't get affiliated with a real media organization so he pluckily found a slightly disreputable 'conservative' cause to hide behind" bit then the stories are just "detailed accounts of patrols" as if to say there is no analysis or strategic overlook of what is going on. i.e. this is just hearsay and given the "conservative"="rabid Bush supporting" so called news organization of course it can be dismissed as propaganda too. This also gets into the third FUD category "good but you need more".
So yes on the evidence this is FUD. This is fascinating stuff because the production of FUD is a sign of an organization whose product is facing a competitive threat that it can't beat head to head. I would say that Bill and Michael Yon, Michael Totten and, for that matter the Iraqi bloggers at Pajamas Media, are indeed a threat to the MSM foreign reporters. The reason they are a threat is that they are providing a better quality story. They don't make the elementary mistakes that MSM journos do such as calling a Bradley a tank or failing to note such inconsistencies from their sources. One could go on, but the fact is that Bill & co, as well other Citizen Journalistefforts are making it clear that journalism is not something that has, in the jargon, a moat or high barriers of entry. In fact thanks to the web it has about the lowest barrier of entry of any profession. All that is required is a story and an ability to write and the web then helps that story and writing ability, if either or both are attractive, to get wider coverage.
This all looks like a classic case of the stodgy incumbent being shaken up by nimbler new competitors who are benefitting from some disruptive innovation and as I noted at the beginning, FUD is the standard response of the incumbent to this attack. Another response, which we may also see here, is for the incumbent to attempt the divide and conquer routine on its competitors. In this case the labelling of Roggio as a "conservative" may well be an attempt to get left wing citizen journalists to pile on in the hopes of splitting the threat. Now this doesn't in any way mean that all newspapers are about to go the way of the dodo and be replaced by bloggers but is it a sign of a vulnerability and tied with other vulnberabilites such as craigslist and ebay attacking the classified markets it could be a sign that the print parts of the MSM are about to die. If we look at the two year graphs both the NY Times and Knight Ridder look like poor investments having lost 40% and 20% of their value respectively while the Dow has risen slightly and other indices have risen more and Pajamas Media raised a significant chunk of venture capital. Thus the market appears to be less than confident that the news print media can survive on-line competition.
Update: Welcome Instapundit and Gates of Vienna etc. visitors, please take your time to have a look around and especially consider taking a look at the "offensive" Danish cartoons and my FUD update
There is of course a lot of commentary about this and I'm not going to provide a linkfest because my readers have probably read most of them but I think the Daily Pundit has a post that makes complentary points to this one.