The biggest little story of 2011
If the mainstream media had their way, President John Kerry would likely be in the final year of his second term. Vice President John Edwards might be a leading candidate in the 2012 Democratic primary. In this alternate universe, John Kerry’s three-month stint in Vietnam would be a footnote in his storied rise to power. And most Americans wouldn’t know that he acquired three purple hearts without bleeding in battle.
For the most part, that information reached the American electorate through new media — and in spite of the efforts of the broadcast news outlets. Blogs and upstart websites have altered news delivery forever, and the networks are now covering stories broken on news websites as often as they are breaking their own.
But that is just part one of the new media revolution. Part two began on September 20, when California Congressman and House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa held a telephone press conference on the developing gunwalker component of the “Fast and Furious” scandal. The substance of the call concerned a possible FBI cover-up, the appointment of a special prosecutor and other recent developments in the Department of Justice’s program, which allowed guns to fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels, resulting in the deaths of border patrol agent Brian Terry and hundreds of Mexican citizens.
But, as momentous as the news Issa delivered was, the method of his delivery was even more significant. Issa didn’t reach out to the household names of big journalism. He didn’t call newspaper reporters or broadcast news outlets. For whatever undeclared reason, the mainstream outlets did not deem the “Fast and Furious” scandal worthy of their viewership’s attention, so Issa solved his own problem. He called bloggers. In that single act, a sitting congressman took a little credibility away from established news outlets and handed it to the blogosphere.
Some bloggers may yawn at this, and with good reason. Independent news sites have been breaking important stories for years. They’ve already established their own credibility. But what Issa did for new media is something that new media could never do for itself. By openly sidestepping traditional outlets for non-traditional ones, Issa is, in effect, changing tradition.
I’m reminded of Twisted Sister’s anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” Once upon a time, that song could be aptly directed from the fourth estate to the scheming powers that be. On September 20, 2011, Darrell Issa flipped it around and declared that the mainstream media outlets have become the schemers. Others will inevitably follow his lead.
In a year that saw Navy Seals kill Osama, Kim Jong-il die and Iran get closer to acquiring a nuclear weapon, maybe this is a little story. But it’s little in the way that the first crack in a dam is little.
In our new age, the old media is slowly and reluctantly learning that they can no longer unilaterally decide what is news and what isn’t. Perhaps more importantly, Issa has reminded us that in a free society, it is the people’s duty to police the fourth estate in order to facilitate the fourth estate’s duty: to protect the people.
Yates Walker is a conservative activist and writer. Before becoming involved in politics, he served honorably as a paratrooper and a medic in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.