Currently, I'm enjoying (finally) reading Herman and Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent. If you are not familiar with the book, you are probably familiar with many of the concepts. Essentially, it proposes a 'propaganda model' describing the interactions between mass media, corporations and government. Reworking the media model, in part, to one in which the customers are corporations and the product is the audience. At the same time it establishes the idea that while the 'free press' wears the guise of an open information market it is in fact hiding a bias towards the interests of corporations and the government.
The book is structured around establishing the model and then examining in the context of several case studies.
There are two interesting aspects to consider. Firstly, the research that was done to develop the case studies could be done, now, in a very different way. Rather than manually examine a small number of publications, one could leverage far larger corpra via tools like Google News. Secondly, it is interesting to examine the blogosphere ecologically with the same eye towards the overall behaviour of the system rather than the 'good intentions' of the individual participants.
Looking at the first issue, we can re-examine one of the case studies using Google News. The comparison of media coverage over the assassination of Jerzy Popieluszko in Poland (which the authors claim received heavy interest from the US media-complex) to that of Archbishop Oscar Romero in El Salvador (which encouraged far less media 'outrage').
Using Google News we see the following:
In 1984, hits for 'Jerzy Popieluszko" are estimated at 1,380.
In 1980, hits for 'Oscar Romero' are estimated at 286.
Lamentations regarding Google's interface aside, and making some gross assumptions regarding methodology, these numbers are in line with those in the book (the Romero story getting approximately 20% of the coverage of the Popieluszko story).
The book goes further into the content and address the tone and intentions of the authors (were they outraged? did they attempt to 'demand' a response?). The point being illustrated is that client states (like El Salvador) will not receive media attention when acting in ways for which non-client states would generate outrage and hightened interest.
Looking at the second issue, we can think of part of the propaganda model wrt content found in blogs. One of the issues the Herman and Chomsky raise is that of sourcing news content. A news organization must gather news. News 'events' might happen anywhere but there are limited resources. Thus one would like to determine where rich sources of news content are and go there. The government (in the form of press room) and corporations (in the form of press releases) provide just that economy.
In the case of bloggers, what are the sourcing models? Most likely a mixture.
Perhaps the most immediately salient component of the model is the generation of 'flak'. Flak in journalistic terms is either content used to question reports or harass the process of reporting, or distracting information released to divert attention. One only has to take a look at TechMeme to witness the relationship between the corporations and the blogosphere. Today Apple's CEO, Steve Jobs, sources a rare 'letter' to the blogosphere regarding his position on the Adobe Flash product to coincide with the increased attention that the other Apple story - a far more sinister one regarding the attempts to recover the lost iPhone prototype.