By Brian Hamman — University of Missouri
One of the bloggers responsible for the spread of misleading exit poll data told a room full of journalists that she posted the numbers without really worrying about their accuracy.
Ana Marie Cox -- aka irreverent blogger Wonkette -- offered an after-the-fact excuse: "My retrospective argument seems relevant: We had to publish exit polls in order to kill them."
At the core of her decision to publish the polls, she said, were her cyberlibertarian values: "I like my porn free and my email private," she said.
Cox, a former editor, said she feels liberated because she doesn't see herself as a journalist and works without an editor.
She focused her comments on the watchdog role of bloggers in the media, which she admitted to be more significant than she expected.
"Those who work in the business have a stake in the illusion that getting it right most of the time is getting it right all of the time," Cox said of journalists. "Bloggers have eliminated that gap between all of the time and most of the time."
She predicted that the legacy of bloggers in the 2004 election will be that of the "ragtag bag of conservative bloggers that brought down CBS."
What hurt CBS, she said, was not only its mistake but its adherence to an old paradigm of presenting journalism as definite truth, instead of considering it -- as bloggers do -- as a first draft of history.
Despite the success that blogs have had, Cox still downplayed the significance of the underlying technology. "Focusing on the idea of blog is like focusing on the printing press," she said.
Cox cautioned against calling blogs journalism when they do not adhere to the standards and practices of journalists. To her, blogs are just a medium, and for many of their authors they are simply a step on a path to another job.
Cox said bloggers deserve a role in criticizing and commenting on the news, but will not replace traditional journalists and should not be held to the same standards.