When Talking Points Memo started its investigation of the US Attorney firings, I knew Josh Marshall and his team were onto something big. When readers poured in with local press coverage and TPM started stitching the pieces together to show a pattern of politically motivated gutting of the judiciary, I knew that we were seeing a classic example of crowdsourcing at work. When he asked his readers to help him pore through thousands of pages of government documents to help put the pieces together, I knew that we were looking at the start of something big.
The world seems to agree. Having won a George Polk Award for legal reporting, TPM’s crowdsourced investigatory model now stands as a new high water mark in what lowered transaction costs can do to journalism. No matter how quiet, distributed, and seemingly boring, no matter how voluminous the documentation in which the offense is buried, you can now count on one thing: bloggers will be there to put the pieces together and spell out the uncomfortable truth.
It’s a reminder that we aren’t done with the revolution and promise of the Internet. I don’t think anyone would have predicted that lowered costs of communication would make it easier to expose secret government hijinx, but it is clear now that that is exactly one of the benefits of a free and open Internet, and that it is a bracing alternative to the spin dominated, celebrity focused, Timmy-trapped-in-well-24-hour-coverage that has passed for “broadcast journalism” recently. Well done, Josh and team, for reminding us how it’s supposed to be done.