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Fake News Scoops Real News On Rummy

Blogophile is written by's Melissa P. McNamara.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's departure came as a surprise to many in Washington and in the media. Perhaps that's because few reporters or politicians were reading Comedy Central's blog. Plus, the big news on Wall Street? The SEC Chair blogs! Also, if you like to travel on the cheap, there are some Web sites out there to help. And why are lots of people blogging about Keith Ellison?

Take That, Mainstream Media

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's departure came as a surprise to many in Washington and in the media. Perhaps that's because few reporters or politicians were reading Comedy Central's blog. The fake news site actually broke the real news of Rumsfeld's resignation on its blog at 12:15 a.m. on election night, a full news cycle ahead of the mainstream media.

Under the headline "Only Like the Biggest (Maybe) Newsbreak of the Night," the blog displayed:

"The buzz I'm hearing from a friend, and a totally unconfirmed White House source (remember Comedy Central doesn't have journalistic standards), is that Rumsfeld will be out of the administration tomorrow.

"This is a shocker even to the totally unnamed source in the White House. Already, we are seeing reports of a White House Press conference scheduled for tomorrow at 1 p.m. Could this be it?"

As Lindsay Robertson put it: "The Comedy Central Insider blog TOTALLY SCOOPED EVERYONE. Really. Seriously. Totally. Awesomely." "All hail basic-cable-based citizen's media!" Defamer adds.

Comedy Central updated its blog with a timeline of how its scoop got reported, complete with links to other bloggers who linked to their post. Those bloggers included Wonkette, who wrote at the time: "The current rumor: Rummy's resignation. Weirdly, this was first floated by Comedy Central's blog. So if it's true, expect dogs lying with cats by sundown."

Bloggers were giddy that a fake news channel reported real news. "Yep, it's true. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is packing it in," the bloggers at Gawker wrote. "This won't come as a shock to those of you who keep in touch with the muckraking journal which broke the story late last evening, the Wall Street Jour-- er, the New York T-- er, the National Enq-- huh? Oh, right, the Comedy Central blog. Nice work, media! You got scooped by the folks who write web promos for Mind of Mencia!"

Some bloggers, of course, took a jab at the mainstream media for being scooped by Comedy Central. "If anything could reinforce how disrupted the journalism business has become, it's the fact that a comedy channel can break news — which may not be all that surprising, considering that surveys show many younger people get their news from Jon Stewart's Daily Show," Mathew Ingram writes.

Dave agrees. "This begs the question: is fake news better than real news or is fake news better at real news than real news?" he writes at Magic Schoolbus.

SEC Chair Gets Bloggy

What's the big news on Wall Street? Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox commented about blogs on a blog! One small step for the government as it enters the blogosphere.

The Associated Press said it was the first official communication posted to a blog by an SEC chairman. Cox commented on the blog of Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz about Schwartz's suggestion that the SEC consider Web sites, including blogs, as an acceptable way to disseminate corporate information.

In his comment, which was also mailed the old-fashioned way, Cox wrote:

"Assuming that the Commission were to embrace your suggestion that the 'widespread dissemination' requirement of Regulation FD can be satisfied through web disclosure, among the questions that would need to be addressed is whether there exist effective means to guarantee that a corporation uses its Website in ways that assure broad non-exclusionary access, and the extent to which a determination that particular methods are effective in that regard depends on the particular facts."

Cox's response sparked a frenzy of attention from bloggers and those in the business community. IR magazine said it was a "provocative move."

"We're jealous. SEC Chairman Christopher Cox posted a comment on a blog. But not the Law Blog. ..." Peter Lattman wrote on the Wall Street Journal's Law blog. "Wow. Could this spell the end of the news release?" Kevin Dugan added at Strategic Public Relations.

Many financial bloggers debated the implications of Cox's statement. Chris Heuer from Social Media Club called it "a clear and successful attempt to show the power of blogs as an open and credible conversation platform that seemingly meets the requirements of Fair Disclosure." "How cool that he actually posted it in the context of the post he was replying to," Heuer added.

"That's the first time an SEC Chairman has posted on a blog, but moreover, if the SEC approves blogs as a medium for disseminating financial disclosures it will be a recognition that blogs meet the criteria to reach a 'broad public audience through non-exclusionary means," Melanie Coburn writes at John Battelle's Searchblog.

Freeloaders Encouraged

Got a spare couch? Turns out, a growing number of people are going online to find places to crash, whether traveling around the world or within the United States, the Associated Press reports.

Sites like,, and help match would-be travelers with places to stay. While the results are practical — you get a place to stay for free — these sights have idealistic missions.

"By bringing travelers in touch with people in the place they visit, and by giving 'locals' a chance to meet people from other cultures we can increase intercultural understanding and strengthen the peace on our planet," proclaims Hospitality Club. And Globalfreeloaders says it gives travelers the opportunity to, "save money and make new friends whilst seeing the world from a local's perspective!"

Many of these sites are free of charge, but garner money through online advertisements. If you're hesitant to camp out on a stranger's couch, you're not alone. But many bloggers were also intrigued by the idea of meeting local people while seeing new places.

"I am fascinated by the idea of connecting people over the internet who offer their places for travelers and really curious how this is going to work," a blogger at Stylewalker writes. "The communication so far with the people I wrote to in Riga has been very friendly and pleasant and I am looking forward to meeting them."

Some bloggers say these sites are the perfect solution for adventurous travelers. "Not only do you get free accommodation but you also get the inside knowledge, experience and culture that comes with staying with a local that you'd never be exposed to staying in a hotel or hostel," a blogger at Pauper Travel writes.

And a blogger at My Year Off From Doing The Work Thing agrees. "I'd have to say that the best part about couchsurfing and staying in stranger's houses is not just about the money you save. It's about the people you meet. It blows me away when I meet my hosts and hostesses," the blogger writes. "So many stories, so many thoughts and ideas about the world."

Ellison A Man Of Firsts

Along with the Democrats last week's election ushered in to Congress, is Keith Ellison, the first Muslim U.S. representative, as well as the first black congressman from Minnesota.

Ellison's election was praised by many Muslim bloggers who said his political success is a triumph for American tolerance. Under the headline "Ladies and gentlemen, we have won," a blogger at an Arabic site posted victory photos of Ellison from election night.

Heidi Kitrosser is proud her congressional district made history with Ellison's election. "I had the pleasure of speaking with Ellison when he made the rounds around the law school last spring -- I have high hopes that he will make an outstanding addition to the Congress," she writes at Concurring Opinions.

Ellison even caught the attention of a blogger across the pond. "From what I've seen of his views (such as two state solution to the Middle East and an endorsement from American Jewish World) this will be very good news - both because of the extra prominence it will give to non-Muslims that Muslim doesn't equal extremist or terrorist and also because the more prominent moderate Muslims there are in leadership positions, the better for the Muslim community itself too," Lynne Featherstone, a British MP, writes at Lynne's Parliament and Haringey diary.

According to Reuters, approximately 2 million Muslims are registered U.S. voters, and their ranks increased by tens of thousands in the weeks prior to Tuesday's mid-term elections, Muslim groups have said. Liza at Culturekitchen says this begs the question: "Can democrats translate these local coalitions into a nation-wide strategy of inclusive political power?"

But not all bloggers view Ellison's victory as a good thing. Some say Ellison downplayed his link to the Nation of Islam and are disconcerted by his association with other Muslim organizations. Scott at Powerline links to a video from election night of Ellison's supporters chanting "Allahu Akbar" and notes that Ellison will be speaking to CAIR (The Council on American-Islamic Relations) "and a few other of its Democratic friends at CAIR's annual banquet."

But A. Fatih Syuhud, writing in Indonesia, says it's much ado about nothing. "So, to see the brouhaha over the election of Keith Ellison, and mind you he's elected 'only' as legislator and NOT as minister/secretary of significant post, is ludicrous from Indonesian Muslim perspective," he blogs.

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By Melissa McNamara

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