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Blogosphere of Influence

Want to create a media firestorm in your underwear? Here's how.

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I am amazed -- and freaked out -- that something I do sitting around in my underwear made news.

I have a blog. You know, one of those stream-of-consciousness rambling babbling yippety-yap things on the Internet.

At last count, there were eight hundred billion kajillion blogs on the earth. Some blogs have credibility, allegedly. Some don't. Some are whimsical. Some are serious. I hadn't really decided what mine was. Sometimes I write about politics. Sometimes I attempt humor. Sometimes I riff off of the news.

I kept hearing about this story about Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl -- or "Opie," as I've nicknamed him -- getting into an altercation with a cop at Heinz Field in October 2005. I kept hearing about it from a lot of people, including a lot of mainstream-media reporters.

I kept hearing that everyone was close to breaking the story, but no one actually did. They couldn't nail it down.

And although I also write a freelance column for the City Paper -- that's what you're reading now -- it would have been hard for me to nail it down, too. The newspaper has journalistic standards. No, really. I'm held to a different standard here than I am on the blog. The blog can be more speculative. At least, that's the impression I get, although blogs haven't been around long enough to really develop standards.

So I decided to blog about how all these mainstream media (MSM) outlets had this story, but couldn't nail it down.

One of them was bound to break it, I was sure. Because the competitive nature of the media is, if everybody knows everybody else has the same stuff, then everybody's going to run over their grandmother to get the story first. Welcome to journalism, folks!

As I blogged about the MSM being on the verge of breaking the story, it didn't occur to me I might motivate someone to break the story. But what I really did not expect, and what blew me away, is that not one outlet from the MSM did break the story. The mayor's office did it instead.

They knew that an incident did occur, and they knew it was going to break sooner or later. But after I blogged about it on www.macyapper.blogspot.com (cheap commercial plug), they feared it would be sooner. So they decided to get out in front of it and spin it their way, early.

So my blog did what months of questions from other reporters couldn't do: It got the mayor's office to acknowledge something that happened a year ago. And that's ridiculous. Because I really do sit around in my underwear and dream up crap to write about. My blog shouldn't make news. But it did.

I was interviewed on Channels 2 and 4 about it. The theme? "What's this nutty blogosphere all about and how on earth did it infiltrate and motivate the MSM?" Channel 4's Bob Mayo declared it was the first time in Pittsburgh that the blogosphere affected politics in a major way. Is that true? Even if it isn't, I like the sound of it.

I also felt some condescension from my MSM colleagues. I have been part of the MSM for most of my adult life. I worked at several TV stations as a reporter. I did some investigative work. I had so many lawyers up my ass, I didn't have room to crap. I respect and admire the ethics of serious print and broadcast journalists who try to present the truth and be inscrutably fair. Hence, I understand why they don't like this interloper, upstart, cocky little Internet thing.

The freedom on the Internet is a blessing and a curse. If ballsy bloggers can bring us the truth, halle-freaking-lujah. If irresponsible bloggers bring us a pack of lies, it's not like we need more of that shit. We already have politicians.

Remember, Newsweek was about to break the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but it was getting cold feet. Matt Drudge reported that that was the case, and ended up breaking the scandal, begetting a kajillion "Drudge Report" wannabes.

I don't know if I wannabe a wannabe. I just wanted to muse in my underwear. I don't know if blogs are good or bad. But if you ask me, the free flow of information is pretty cool. And you can't get any freer than the blogosphere.

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