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Watching the Watchdog: Bloggers as the Fifth Estate
By Stephen D. Cooper, Marshall University
Foreword by Dr. Jim A. Kuypers, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
This book "is scrupulously detailed" and its "comprehensive analysis of bloggers' capacity to compete on agenda-creation as well as to critique and affect the mainstream media's agenda-setting, framing, spinning and accuracy on major national and international issues is simply superb. ... an exquisite and exquisitely researched work; anyone teaching a course on Media Criticism or a variety of other journalism courses should require the book." —Richard E. Vatz, Towson University Distinguished Professor
Who’s Watching the Watchdog, Anyway?
Just ask CBS News. In 2004, the network came into possession of allegedly authentic National Guard documents which claimed that President Bush had failed to perform his duties when he was in the National Guard during the Vietnam War. But the documents were forged, and bloggers, not the media, broke that story.
From the Introduction:
The metaphor of watchdog has long been popular as shorthand for the structural role of the free press in a representative democracy. Should government officers fail in their responsibility to exercise power on behalf of the general public, that watchdog would alert the citizens at large to that malfeasance. ...
But what of that watchdog’s leash? If the people need a watchdog to make sure the institution of government does not abuse the power they have granted it, would there not be a need for a comparable check on the press, as a social institution with power in its own right? ...
[B]logs lack direct control over the activities of the mainstream press, yet many of them monitor the mainstream press ... . [T]he watchdog’s bite is the threat of diminished credibility, manifest as lost votes for politicians and as reduced consumption of their media products for the mainstream press. ...
This little book is not intended as either an endorsement or a criticism of the ideological or political views of any bloggers ... Instead, this work is intended as an exploration of the distinct types of media criticism which have evolved in the blogosphere, and it does make the argument that the blogosphere, as an emergent social object in itself, is a constructive addition to the media mix.
So ... we might now be seeing the emergence of a Fifth Estate in our social system, a watcher of the watchdog. In one sentence, the thesis of this little book is that the blogosphere is in the process of maturing into a full-fledged social institution, albeit a non-traditional one: emergent, self-organizing, and self-regulating.
Stephen D. Cooper (Ph.D. Rutgers) is associate professor of communication studies at Marshall University, where he teaches courses in media and society, business and professional communication, computer-mediated communication, and group communication. He is author or coauthor of articles published in Qualitative Research Reports in Communication, Review of Communication, The Kentucky Journal of Communication, The American Communication Journal, and The New Jersey Journal of Communication.
355 pp / Paperback / 5 x 8 format / Summer 2006 / Includes CIP Data / ISBN: 0-922993-46-7 (cloth) $59.95 / ISBN: 0-922993-47-5 (paper) $39.95