Saturday, December 21, 2002

Contra Costa Times | Web-based 'bloggers' emerge in Lott affair

Although it has since become the talk of Washington and the nation, Lott's quasi-endorsement of Thurmond's 1948 Dixiecrat campaign was not even reported by newspapers or television networks on the day it happened. Not until the following week did the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or network news shows begin to cover Lott's wrongheaded comments. Until then, the story percolated only on the Internet.

Online writers, alternately referred to as Web loggers and "bloggers," have become increasingly influential in the news-gathering process. Their sites shape coverage and drive debate in a way not unlike talk radio. But never before have they owned a story like they did the Trent Lott saga. That was a milestone for Web pundits; if Lott is forced to cede his leadership post, it will be in part because the writers on political Web sites kept after him.

"In the case of the Lott story, sentiment spread like wildfire and in no time, each blogger had thrown in their two cents," says Jennifer Gray, whose blog is called "Girl on the Right" (

Adds Joshua Micah Marshall, who writes, "There were a number of Web sites, mine being one of them, who started hammering it."

Many credit Marshall with pushing the Lott story to the forefront with more vigor than any other online pundit. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said as much in a recent column, and called Marshall's Web site "must reading for the politically curious."

Another blogger, who goes by the name Atrios (, was nearly as influential. He (or she) wrote dozens of items about the matter and has already begun to examine the voting record of Don Nickles, the Oklahoma Republican who might step up if Lott steps down.

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