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May 28, 2004

The Indictment of Abu Hamza ("Captain Hook")

Apparently we flipped two of his disciples -- two of the Portland-area Al Qaeda.

Alphabet City has some first-class reportage, digging through the indictment, linking together all the conspirators.

Ramzi Yousef, inevitably, makes a cameo. He's turning out to be as to Al Qaeda what Allen Dulles is to JFK conspiracy theories, or what the Knights Templar are to medieval/church conspiracies -- he's just always popping up somewhere along the way.

First I thought Alphabet City was cutting and pasting a professional dispatch, but no, it appears he's written this up himself.

This post is great for two reasons. For one, it's just a good backgrounder. It digests the indictment and reports all the most important facts, and then it hyperlinks the stuffings out of all the major players.

But it also demonstrates that there's no particular reason that a blogger, given sufficient discipline and craft, can't produce dispatches on par with anything from AP.

It's not that Alphabet City's backgrounder is so much better than what you'd read on AP (although it's better than what you might read most of the time).

It's rather that there's no discernable difference between a professional backgrounder and Alphabet City's.

And this kind of piece is an important part of the news. It's not talk-to-a-source original reportage (so far as I can tell; if I'm wrong, I trust I'll be corrected). But a lot of articles in the newspapers are digests of indictments and court opinions and the like. It's a big part of the function of reporters, if not their main function.

There are some genuine deep thinkers in the blogosphere. Den Beste, for one; the Volokhs; and even Mickey Kaus, when the mood strikes him, and when he can restrain himself from using exclamation points every second sentence.

So, as far as opinion and analysis, the blogosphere has produced some important players.

But it hasn't produced actual reporters, fact-finders, digesters, and backgrounders, at least not consistently. (And not to my knowledge; I'm not an expert on the blogosphere. I'm not really an expert on anything, to tell the truth.)

As the blogosphere begins producing pieces like this more consistently-- what, precisely, is left for the mainstream media?

Actual talk-to-a-source reportage will probably remain their turf alone; there's a steep entry barrier to that function. You need a lot of time and a lot of connections and a lot of time to work your connections.

Still: two out of three ain't bad. Once the blogosphere can compete in terms of both opinion/analysis essays and overview/context pieces, the reporters will be left with nothing much to do but report on actual breaking news...

...which is sort of the job they're actually supposed to be doing, anyway.

Note to self: Stop churning out slapdash buffoonery. There's a better way.

Note to self: Lean on "Deep Stoat" to tip me as to the upcoming jobs numbers.

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posted by Ace at 03:10 AM

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