Bloggers can be tipsters on what is happening now, what’s “hot” and what’s out there. Lottgate, Rathergate, and the Eason Jordan affair are such examples. Blogs, or blog-like websites, can also tell journalists what other journalists are printing or not printing. Blogs can also “get out the rumor” faster because of their lack of structural rigidity. The distributed networks of blogs also allow stories to be vetted very quickly for confirmation or refutation. For example, I was reading the liberal blog Daily Kos on the morning of Friday, July 1, 2005 when the following post, by DK associate blogger, “TheMadEph,” appeared.

SANDRA DAY OCONNOR JUST RETIRED

by TheMadEph

Fri Jul 1st, 2005 at 06:40:12 PDT

Heard from Heritage Foundation Insider

Im sure there will be a better diary later..

But it has begun…

This is going to be ugly, because im sure rehnquist will follow shortly although that’s just my speculation..

Anyway, Im at work and dont have time to give a full diary, i figure other people can start a real one, once i get over this stupid three hundred character minimum

Update [2005-7-1 10:49:29 by TheMadEph]: THIS HAS BEEN CONFIRMED NOW: the real substantive conversation is at the bottom, past all the name calling and pettiness. Have at it guys, Im back to lurking…too much stress for this posting shit

Within hours 176 commenters posted their thoughts. Within twenty minutes, a conservative blog that often focuses on legal issues, The Volokh Conspiracy, framed a response and listed “related posts”:

O’Connor Retirement Rumor:

Can anyone confirm this? (etm note: “this” is a link to http://www.dailykos.com/story/2005/7/1/94012/70086) Or is it bogus? (My apologies for calling attention to this if it proves false — I figure our readers are among those who can say whether it is the real deal or not.)

Related Posts (on one page):

1 Retirement Blogging:

2 It’s Official:

3 O’Connor Retirement Rumor:

4 Assessing the Supreme Court Short List:

5 Will O’Connor Retire at the End of the Term?

This is blog-typical, open source and open mind: asking readers whether something is true or spurious. As far as I know such a question violates every rule of journalism I have ever taught. It would be inconceivable for the Los Angeles Times to print a story without confirmation and ask its readers directly for more news or details. Yes, a story might be printed without adequate sourcing and prove to be false; that happens all the time. But asking readers for help is unprofessional, which is unfortunate, but again, it is a great advantage integral to blogging. In the case of Volokh, the last post seemed to “solve” the dilemma:

Rov (www):

As they discovered in comments, it’s true but misleading.

*A* Sandra O’Connor will be retiring, but she’s a Baltimore prosecutor, not a SCOTUS justice: linky

False alarm. :).

7.1.2005 10:16am

Note the typographic smiley face after “false alarm.”

And indeed, as reported in the Baltimore Sun, “Sandra A. O’Connor,” who was “Baltimore County’s top prosecutor,” had announced her retirement a few days before. But within hours, it was “outed” in blogs that the Sandra Day O’Connor, of the U.S. Supreme Court, was also retiring!

Originally posted December 25, 2005 at PolicyByBlog

One Comment

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    Original Reader Comments (2)

    Prof. Perlmutter,

    Given your semester at Williams, I’m sure you remember that the Ephs are Williams’ mascot. Thus, whoever “TheMadEph” is probably has some relation to Williams. I can probabably surmise his source, as the chief of staff at the Heritage Foundation, at least as of that time, was a Williams graduate (’04) as well.
    January 2, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLoweeel

    Should have remembered that–great snooping of the source trail!
    January 3, 2006 | Registered Commenterdavid.d.perlmutter

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