The mainstream media has a bead on the blogosphere. They’ve got their story.

"The blogs" is now short-hand for "conspiricists, wackos, and (worst of all) partisans." If a nightly news producer needs something slightly outre said, something outside the orbit of polite political dialogue, "the blogs" are happy to say it for them. There are, after all, a lot of blog posts. They’re bound to say anything.

This makes the media lazy. Exhibit A: CBS Nightly News did a story on the widespread belief that Bush & Rove are manipulating gas prices in advance of the mid-term elections. We’re told the blogs are fairly abuzz with suspicion.

For this, they mustered two blog screenshots:

  • A random one-paragraph Daily Kos diary on "gas prices and the elections."
  • A post of mine arguing that Bush and Rove are not manipulating gas prices, and couldn’t if they wanted to.

So much for that story. Did they just run a google search on "gas prices" and screencap the results?

Whoever’s producing CBS News doesn’t seem to grasp that "the blogs" are not some undifferentiated goo to spread on stories for spice. The salient features of the blogosphere are its diversity and depth. Perhaps that explains why it’s so alien to nightly news producers. Where the nightly news puts a homogenizing sheen on every 2 minute clip, blogs and blog posts vary wildly in length, tone, erudition, evidentiary support, and uses of the term "wanker."

There are better and worse bloggers, with varying areas of strength and expertise. If CBS News were looking for a dKos post, is it too much to ask that it spend a modicum of time familiarizing itself with that site’s respected voices on energy issues? A little looking would have found this long and closely argued post by Jerome a Paris, one of the leaders of dKos’s collective energy plan, Energize America.

Sooner or later, producers and reporters will have to stop thinking of "the blogs" as an exotic species roaming the online savannah, to be viewed at a distance. They’ll have to stop treating the blogosphere like a curious phenomenon, and start treating it like a legitimate medium.