Media Still Have the Power

Fred Barnes writes in the Weekly Standard that despite the huge growth of the alternative media, including bloggers and talk radio, the mainstream media is still in charge as it remains able to determine the country's "conventional wisdom."

Last year, conservative talk radio, websites, and bloggers forced the Swift Boats vets story onto the national media agenda and instantly destroyed 60 Minutes's case against President Bush and his Texas Air National Guard service. But conservatives shouldn't get triumphal. The mainstream media still rules....

Consider the case of Democratic Congressman John Murtha of Pennsylvania, who recently called for an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The mainstream media treated this as a shot out of the blue by a defense hawk who suddenly concluded that the war was unwinnable. Conservatives knew better--namely that Murtha had been criticizing the war for many months and that his call for withdrawal was utterly irresponsible.

The mainstream media view prevailed. Murtha was treated as a pro-war hawk who had reluctantly--and more in sorrow than in anger--turned against the intervention in Iraq. Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch gave him an "up" arrow, and indeed that reflected media opinion about Murtha and opposition to the war in Iraq. The dissent by the conservative media barely registered....

I don't mean to diminish the alternative media. It's simply that the mainstream media is far bigger and much, much stronger--and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Talk radio, websites and bloggers don't report. They can only react to the reporting of the mainstream media.