We've already gotten a number of very promising applications for the job opening TPM is now hiring for. But I wanted to take a moment to explain a bit more about what we're doing -- partly for potential job applicants, but much more for readers of this site.
One of the most inspiring things about the blog phenomenon is the sheer multiplicity of differet forms created within the basic genre -- even within the relatively small niche of blogs devoted to politics. You've got a site like CrooksandLiars.com, for instance, which in addition to a lot of conventional text blogging, provides this amazing service of hosting more or less instantly available video snippets of most all the happenings on the day's political news shows that people on the web are talking about.
The blogging that I've done over the last five years -- TPM's Five Year Anniversary is coming up this Sunday, by the way -- has taken a number of different forms, several of which, over the last year especially, I really never would have expected. But two have always been the ones I've most gravitated toward.
First is blog as distiller of information. It's a cliche to say how we're all overloaded with information today with the proliferation of news outlets. But it's quite a thing to actually consider in some detail how true it actually is.
A dozen years ago, only an extremely small minority of people had access to any newspapers beside their local paper and perhaps the New York Times, USA Today or the Wall Street Journal, which have a national or quasi-national distribution.
Today anyone with an Internet connection has immediate access to every major paper in the country and the great majority of local papers which contain all manner of information flying beneath the radars of the big regional outlets. That of course doesn't even touch on international papers, native online news outlets, websites for the news networks and much else.
If you're trying to keep up on the Social Security fight or the Abramoff story, for instance, there's just a huge amount of information out there. And one of the things I've tried to do with this site is piece those stories together, put reporting in context or take disparate bits of information appearing in different pieces of reporting and fitting them together into some larger whole.
I still do a lot of original reporting. But not infrequently I have these sort of embarrassing conversations where someone will say, 'Hey, amazing reporting you did on such and such' when actually I didn't do any 'reporting' at all. It was just piecing material together from different news sources and working from tips and leads from readers.
Occasionally, I'll get interviewed about blogs. And I always make the point that 'the media' functions like an ecosystem with a heavy measure of interdependence. Without newspapers and, to a lesser extent, the electronic media, blogs would have very little raw material to feed on. They're heavily dependent on reporting by conventional journalists, either to criticize or to build on.
But blogs have eked out a niche too. Since they're not chained to particular formats of writing, the daily news cycle or the news 'peg', they can focus in on the progress of a particular story in a way that is very difficult to do within the conventions of newspaper reporting.
In any case, that's one focus of mine, one thing I like in blogs.
The other is original reporting.
Few blogs do a lot of original reporting. And that's mainly because it's time-consuming and expensive to support. I've always done quite a bit of it. But that's mainly because for most of the time I've been running TPM I was a freelance journalist trying to scrape together a living by writing constantly. And that left me with lots of material I could use for the site.
In any case, this post wasn't intended as a disquisition on blog theory. But that's the model of blogging that interests me.
And the stories that interest me right now are a) the interconnected web of corruption scandals bubbling up out the reining Washington political machine and b) the upcoming mid-term elections.
I cover a little of both. And I've particularly tried to give some overview of the Abramoff story. But I'm never able to dig deeply enough into the stories or for a sustained enough period of time or to keep track of how all the different ones fit together. That's a site I'd like to read every day -- one that pieced together these different threads of public corruption for me, showed me how the different ones fit together (Abramoff with DeLay with Rove with the shenanigans at PBS and crony-fied bureaucracies like the one Michael Brown was overseeing at FEMA) and kept tabs on how they're all playing in different congressional elections around the country.
That's a site I'd like to read because I'm never able to keep up with all of it myself. So we're going to try to create it.
I don't imagine it will be easy. But it will be an experiment with a new sort of journalism. And I think we'll be able to put something together that the readers of this site will enjoy and find useful. And we're going to try to do that by mobilizing the resources we've already built with TPM and TPMCafe. To start we're going to try to raise money from TPM Readers to jumpstart a salary or two for the person or persons who will do most of the work producing the site. Then we're hoping that over time we can support the effort through selling advertising, an ability we're already investing a good deal of time in building up to support the two sites we currently run.
Finally, we have you. Now, yes, I know that sounds like the most eye-roll-inspiring drivel or flattery. But it's quite true in a very concrete sense.
TPM has a monthly audience of about 3/4 of a million people. And on weekdays we get anywhere form a couple hundred to upwards of a thousand emails (the weekday average seems to be a bit over three hundred). And those messages together amount to a huge nationwide information gathering apparatus. Some emails are just pointers from people with expertise in some area I happen to be writing about. Others turn out to be 'sources' in the conventional journalistic sense. Many more, though, are just pointers to news stories bubbling up beneath the radar of the national political press.
I really can't overemphasize how essential those emails are to producing this site. Just by way of example, when I was focused in on the Social Security debate earlier this year, that was only remotely possible because I had people in almost every congressional district keeping me updated on what was being reported in their local papers, what their member of Congress was saying back in the district, what mailers they were sending out and so forth.
That's something that most reporters don't have access to. But, like a number of other high-traffic blogs, we do. We won't be trying to compete with conventional news outlets. Like I said above, sites like this wouldn't be able to survive without newspapers and news networks to cull information from. But we can produce our own unique sort of wall-to-wall, constantly updated coverage.
I hope the end result will be one you'll want to read and support. And I'm betting we'll be able to find one or two canny and hard-working reporter-bloggers to help us do it.
More on all of this very soon.