Here is Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment" from last night, a blistering denunciation of Bush's "second surge" and the Democrats' weak-kneed agreement to go along with it and their "betrayal" of the American people who voted them in last November ("few men or women elected...have been sent into office with a mandate more obvious nor instructions so clear: Get us out of Iraq"). The man's got a point, but this post isn't about that, nor is it about Olbermann's impressive feat of talkin' tough while wearing a pink shirt and tie. It's actually about an item heralding it on Time.com yesterday.
The headline wasn't that much of a stretch, really — "Exclusive: Olbermann to Blast Iraq Compromise" — I mean, who couldn't have figured that out — but what's interesting is that Time's Ana Marie Cox, arch-nemesis of Eric Alterman, obtained a rough draft of Olbermann's speech for last night's show, and posted the excerpt on Time's "Swampland" blog. Cox averred that she had it "on good authority" that it was legit; a pretty credible claim, we know now, but also before it aired, thanks to phrases like "with the stroke of a cursed pen" (which you just knew would be pronounced "cur-sed" like them smart Shakespeare types say it). But the credibility isn't the point: The point is, it was sort of a weird item. Weird because it was so bloggy, but so not Time-y.
Blogs love the leak — the dude from Engadget said so himself as he was explaining how they'd screwed up so massively on the iPhone story. Obviously they are not alone in that — what newsweekly or paper doesn't love a nice juicy leaked document?— but the difference is that the blog standard for publishable leaked material is way, way lower. Look! An internal email! The Conde Nast air-conditioner will be off between the hours of 10 and 12! Free pizza in the conference room at four! Seriously, this is the sort of stuff that has easily made it to blogs in the past (to the consternation of one Andrew Krucoff) — easy scoops delivered straight to the inbox, easily framed with a joke.
Now, there's no question that this was of slightly more news value — but, really, only slightly. Essentially, all it was was scooping Keith Olbermann on something that it was a safe bet he'd say, anyway. That's not to say it's not interesting or buzzy — Olbermann generates heat, pure and simple — and there's no denying that the topic of the supra-surge is uppermost in mind. But it's unusual to have a post which itself has no analysis; Swampland typically consists of the thoughtful musings of contributors Cox, Joe Klein, Karen Tumulty and Jay Carney,* but rarely do they break anything other than their own opinions. Cox's post has this dash of analysis — "I got a feeling the netroots are gonna like this one" — which may have explained the raison d'etre of the post vis a vis traffic (though not borne out) — but otherwise, just not a typical Swampland post.
So, to the ineviable assessment: Good post or lame post? (I am blogger, hear me judge.) I pick.... GOOD POST! (Wheee, yaaay, confetti!) Why good and not lame? This was basically just a reprint of an Olber-rant, right? Yes, precisely: Cox is the one person at Swampland who knows best that blogs are conduits just as much as they are the main attraction. Knowing how to frame something is key, but also knowing what tidbits to throw out to the reader, and when your own analysis is superfluous, and understanding that not every blog post has to Say Something Impressive (barring this one, of course). It's stuff like this that highlights the nimbleness of the web and keeps the info flowing in between opportunities to make fun of the McCain-Romney bitchslappery. Nothing novel where the blogosphere is concerned, but as Time.com keeps pushing for web presence and attracting a different audience than the magazine, it's stuff like this — more Wonkette than Time — which could very well give them the edge. Either way, Eric Alterman ain't gonna like it.
*Oops, I originally wrote "Jay Conason" — clearly I was confused. Sorry, Joe Conason! And Jay Carney! And Eric Alterman, while I'm at it!