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The Power Shift Continues

Although the punditocracy frequently attempts to portray the blogosphere as the screeching scourge of sports, the reality is that the declining market share of conventional columnists has forced the mainstream media into taking the desperate measure of offering untenable claims solely for their shock value, undermining their increasingly dubious claim that access makes them better informed through the publication of spurious articles for which they clearly have not done their homework.

At the same time, the growing influence of the open forum of the blogosphere has been demonstrated through the ability of webloggers to illuminate ethical lapses and erroneous reports by professional journalists, forcing corrections, retractions, and apologies that inhibit the industry's arrogance and increase readers' access to the truth.

How's retirement treating you, Danny-boy?

Recent examples of both phenomena were on display today at Burnt Orange Nation, where the Louisville Courier-Journal's Rick Bozich was called to account for an article he wrote.

Bozich pointed to Burnt Orange Nation as the source of a "rant" from "a fan" who said he did "not fully believ[e] in Mack Brown" and thought Texas would "slip back" in the absence of Vince Young. Speaking of such "silly Longhorns fans," Bozich scoffed:

Throw the bum out. Immediately. Maybe Fred Akers or John Mackovic is available to return to Austin.

Whether the quoted criticism of Coach Brown is right, or even reasonable, is beside the point.

The point is that the quotation didn't come from Burnt Orange Nation.

In fact, it came from Rakes of Mallow, the new Notre Dame weblog here at SportsBlogs Nation. When analyzing the 2006 national title contenders, Rakes listed four "pros" for the 'Horns and identified two "cons," one of which was the line Bozich cited.

Burnt Orange Nation respectfully disagreed with Rakes of Mallow's assessment, repeating the Rakes' evaluation for the purpose of rebutting it. The criticism of Coach Brown that Bozich accused Burnt Orange Nation of making was, in fact, a criticism the Texas weblog was refuting. Rakes of Mallow has backed up Burnt Orange Nation upon this point.

Don't mess with Texas.

When Bozich was deluged with e-mails from B.O.N.'s principal author, Peter Bean, and his legions of devoted readers, the careless columnist backtracked quickly, apologizing to Peter in a personal e-mail and correcting his article. Bozich's piece now qualifies the phrase "a fan" with the modifier "most likely of Notre Dame" and contains the following tag line:

Throw the bum out? Not yet. Peter Bean of burntorangenation defended the Longhorns' coach from attacks by outsiders on his site.

It is to Bozich's credit that he owned up to his mistake, apologized for it, and rectified it with such celerity. Good for him for fixing his foul-up and doing it expeditiously.

That said, the error never should have seen the light of day in the first place. One of the mainstream sports media's most persistent criticisms of the blogosphere is that it has no professional standards, no ethical imprimaturs, and, at a bare minimum, no fact-checkers or copy editors.

In the first place, I would dispute the claim that webloggers lack guiding principles, but, even to the extent that this is the case, what advantage can conventional columnists claim when their articles contain errors that even the most cursory attention to detail would have caught?

This kind of thing never got by Lewis.

Bozich pieced together a column out of a hamhanded Google search and tried to pass it off as insight. When his laziness caused him to malign one of the most reputable and reporter-friendly writers in the intercollegiate athletics blogosphere, he caught massive amounts of well-deserved flak for it and had to own up to his shortcomings. So pundits are more credible than bloggers . . . why, exactly?

Finally, and fortunately, the swiftness and solidarity with which overwhelming force was unleashed against this reporter demonstrated the growing ability of the blogosphere to call out the mainstream media for its failings and influence commentary for the better. When Burnt Orange Nation butted heads with the Louisville Courier-Journal, Peter Bean made Rick Bozich his Bozi-otch.

Webloggers will never replace beat reporters in the press box, in the locker room, or on the sidelines and we should not aspire to do so, as such matters are best left to the professionals. When it comes to sports commentary, however, conventional columnists are putting out eight-track tapes and webloggers are burning C.D.s.

Go 'Dawgs!