THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF THE MEDIA
The Monica Lewinsky scandal led to the impeachment of - and almost brought down - the President of the United States. Trent Lott's laudatory comments about Strom Thurman forced him to step down as Senate Majority Leader. And the current presidential election is currently being dominated by John Kerry's various screw-ups and, now, a forgery scandal involving CBS basing a 60 Minutes report on what now appear to be phony documents that cast George Bush in a negative light (go here and here for roundups of stories on this issue).
What do all of these things have in common? One word: Blogs. The Blogosphere, not mainstream media outlets, is guiding the discourse of this presidential election, so much so that John Kerry has not granted an interview to the press in over a month.
CBS is currently dancing to the tune picked out by bloggers, not by Big Media wonks. Dan Rather is on the hot seat, and I don't think he likes it.
What we are seeing is the "democratization of the media." 100 years ago, people like Pulitzer and Hearst controlled the political discourse of this country. Today, bloggers like Glenn Reynolds, Eugene Volokh and Matt Drudge have taken their place. And not because Reynolds et. al. are fabulously rich and control a media empire, but because they have been elected, so to speak, by popular vote. Many of the most prominent bloggers have attained that position not because of connections or money, but by merit. People go to these blogs, like what they read, and return again and again. And they tell their family and friends who - in a true grassroots effort - tell their acquaintances.
The media is becoming more of a meritocracy. No longer will we see a handful of professional news guys influencing politics and every other facet of society to comport with their view of the world as seen from their "comfy liberal elite bubble." Nope. The media used to be a watchdog for John Q. Public, asking difficult questions and raising difficult issues. Ideology has warped mainstream media too far to the left. From here on out, the watchdog has its own watchdogs - a whole pack of 'em.
They're called bloggers, and they're here to stay.