WASHINGTON - As some of America's most widely read online journalists gather in New York this week to roll out a new blog consortium, one of the blogosphere's leading lights, Michelle Malkin, sums up their craft in one word: "liberating."
She should know. Mrs. Malkin, a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist for six years, has attracted increasing attention for using her Web site to break a series of major news stories left untouched by traditional news outlets. Her blog, www.michellemalkin.com, is ranked on some lists as among the Internet's most popular. According to Mrs. Malkin, her site, featuring news and commentary from a conservative perspective, attracts an average of around 100,000 unique visitors a day - drawing more readers than many daily newspapers.
It also will be part of Pajamas Media, the 70-blog collaborative being unveiled Wednesday at a reception in the Rainbow Room in New York that will include remarks by a former New York Times reporter, Judith Miller. A project of bloggers Roger Simon, of www.rogerlsimon.com, and Charles Johnson, of www.littlegreenfootballs.com, Pajamas Media's editorial board includes the New York Post's John Podhoretz and two columnists who appear weekly in The New York Sun, Michael Barone and Mark Steyn.
Every Tuesday, Mrs. Malkin files a column with Creators Syndicate, which then publishes her work in more than 100 newspapers around the country. Despite the wide reach, Mrs. Malkin said she prefers using her online platform to regularly scoop the "mainstream media" - as traditional print and broadcast news outlets are known among bloggers - exposing stories that the "MSM" won't because of ideological bias or lack of interest.
In one recent example, Mrs. Malkin used her Web site to crack the story of the New York Times's manipulation of Marine Corporal Jeffrey Starr, profiled in the paper's article marking the milestone of the 2,000th American soldier to die bringing democracy to Iraq. The Times, Mrs. Malkin found, had quoted selectively from a letter written by the young soldier to his girlfriend before his death, reproducing excerpts that made Starr appear fatalistic about serving multiple tours in Iraq. The Times's dispatch, however, omitted subsequent sentences in which Starr expressed pride in his military service. He wrote, for instance, "Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."
Mrs. Malkin, who was e-mailed the excised parts of the Starr letter by the corporal's uncle, first posted it on her blog. She then followed up in a column, where she also criticized the Times reporter who wrote the story for his response to a Times reader who criticized the omission.
Unveiling the reporting and editing failures that emerge from the "liberal bias" of the Times and other "MSM" outlets is a favorite activity of Mrs. Malkin's, and has spawned some of her juiciest stories. Late last month, for example, in addition to the Times-Starr expose, Mrs. Malkin also caught USA Today doctoring a photograph of Secretary of State Rice to make her eyes look more demonic.
The ability to break news on the blog, Mrs. Malkin said during an interview with The New York Sun last week, was attributable partly to the medium itself. "I get tips all the time" over the Web and by e-mail, Mrs. Malkin said. The cover provided by the Internet encourages readers to submit sensitive information and story suggestions, and Mrs. Malkin provides an encrypted e-mail address to protect sources' anonymity. The result, she said, is that "I get thousands of e-mails, literally, in days," especially on the subjects about which she is most passionate, immigration and national security.
In addition to the open information exchange provided by Internet journalism, Mrs. Malkin said, breaking stories is made somewhat easier by the independence and freedom lacking in most newsrooms.
Writing her column, Mrs. Malkin said, "points out the limitations of space and content" that define print journalism. Mrs. Malkin's newspaper columns are confined to around 700 words, and she cannot link to documentary evidence, photographs, or other news stories to back up her argument, as she does online.
There are also editors to contend with, and last year, papers in Virginia and Southern California dropped Mrs. Malkin's column, alleging it was too "stridently anti-liberal" and focused too heavily on immigration reform, one of the writer's pet causes.
Newspapers, Mrs. Malkin added, are often "uncomfortable" reporting anything without having the full story first. On the blog, however, the ability to publicly state "I wonder..." without already having the whole answer often yields feedback that generates stories fuller than those devised by the "MSM," Mrs. Malkin said.
When asked whether she was concerned that incomplete blog posts were a threat to journalistic standards, Mrs. Malkin said they were not. "All you have in the blogosphere is your credibility," she said. "You don't want to blow that." Moreover, because the Internet is a clearinghouse of information, providing instant access to an extensive network of experts on innumerable subjects, online journalism is "self-policing" and "self-correcting," she said. Blogging, she said, is a "collaborative effort."
Indeed, in a sign the blogosphere is becoming more collective, Mrs. Malkin pointed to the creation of Pajamas Media. Mrs. Malkin said the umbrella-organization structure will also make it easier for participating bloggers to secure advertising revenue, key to many independent journalists' online ventures.
Mrs. Malkin added that she hoped the forum would also increase newspapers' exposure to bloggers, encouraging the major op-ed pages to incorporate more online journalists in lieu of the "same old rolodex of tired blowhards" and "Beltway narcissists."
Despite her affinity for online journalism, however, Mrs. Malkin continues to work in both print and broadcast.
In addition to her online ventures and weekly newspaper column, Mrs. Malkin appears as a regular contributor on Fox News and is a frequent guest on radio and other television networks.
She has also penned three books. "Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores" was published in 2002, and in 2004, Mrs. Malkin released "In Defense of Internment: The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror." Mrs. Malkin is currently involved in a flurry of promotion activity surrounding her latest work, "Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild," released late last month.
A fellow blogger from the other end of the ideological spectrum and the author of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, told the Sun he found her work "ridiculous," insofar as he pays attention to it. Mrs. Malkin said she filled an entire chapter in her most recent volume to the attacks suffered as a result of her conservatism, particularly from liberals who identify Mrs. Malkin, of Filipino origin, as a "race traitor."
Mrs. Malkin has a long record of baiting the left, and it was her experience working on Oberlin College's conservative paper that led her to pursue journalism. After college, Mrs. Malkin moved to Washington, where she was an intern at NBC news. Recruited by the Los Angeles Daily News, Mrs. Malkin then moved to the West Coast, where transitioned between covering school-board meetings out in the California desert during the day and writing editorials about them back in the city at night. Mrs. Malkin also wrote editorials and an op-ed column for the Seattle Times, where, she said, she often chafed under the editorial control of a left-leaning paper as its token conservative.
Mrs. Malkin, who describes herself as Philadelphia-born and New Jersey raised, met her husband, a Rhodes scholar and health economist turned stay-at-home dad, in college. And despite her nearly endless professional activity, Mrs. Malkin says she is first and foremost a mother.
On a typical weeknight in the Malkins' Montgomery County, Md., home last week, Mrs. Malkin seamlessly transitioned between serving dinner on Care Bears and Hello Kitty placemats to fielding requests for radio interviews to helping herd her 5-year-old daughter upstairs for a nightly bath. In the family's colorful kitchen, a visitor finds a laptop computer, checked frequently by Mrs. Malkin for the latest news updates, alongside samples of her children's artwork, which adorn the walls and doorway.
Part of Mrs. Malkin's ability to both report and parent stems from her flexible schedule. She wakes up early, she said, mostly at the encouragement of her two-year-old son, and eats breakfast with her family before dropping her daughter off for day-long kindergarten. At around 9 a.m., Mrs. Malkin said, she begins her reporting for the day, making phone calls and sifting through e-mails. As she works on long-term projects, she makes sure to "feed the blog," abetted by her Treo, a portable computing device that allows her to update her web site remotely.
Even Mrs. Malkin's office is a study in the blending of work and family life. In a cozy upstairs room decorated with patriotic posters - including one bearing an image of Osama Bin Laden, and identifying him as "America's Most Wanted" - Mrs. Malkin's desk is joined by a much smaller one, occupied when the blogger works alongside her daughter.
Preserving a family life amid the journalistic success, Mrs. Malkin said, was of primary importance to her and her husband. She recounts watching female colleagues at the Seattle Times dropping off their children at the company's day-care facility, "and it just broke my heart."
"I couldn't imagine warehousing the kids," Mrs. Malkin said, adding, of her career: "I couldn't do it without" her husband. Mr. and Mrs. Malkin just celebrated their 12th wedding anniversary.
Mrs. Malkin said she so enjoys her home life that she regularly turns down offers to do more work. "A lot of people ask me, 'Do I want my own TV show," she said. The response, Mrs. Malkin added, is always negative.
"I like the balance I have in my life right now," she said. "I feel most comfortable at home, in my grungy clothes," Mrs. Malkin said, while padding around her kitchen in jeans, a hoodie sweater, and a baseball cap proudly proclaiming her a "lifetime member" of the "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy."
Besides, Mrs. Malkin said, she is currently consumed by and focused on her "investigative blogging."
"This is the future," she said.