What you are about to read is quite possibly the most serious media story of the year to date. It is a tragedy and a drama that envelops into one great act of Romano-Greek proportions. It is a story that, on the face of it, looks like harmless fun, like the idle naiveté of a hungry business journalist, but is, at heart, more serious than most of the scandals to break the national press in some time. It is the story of a deep rooted jealously, of an attempt at deliberate manipulation, of one corporate behemoth outsmarting another, and the power of a few little voices triumphing over the bellows of those with corporate jets, unlimited expense accounts, holiday yachts sitting in Monaco, and access to half the world's population at the swish of a pen. Its players are no less than America's greatest institutions: Wal-Mart, bastion and provider of 5% of the United States' GNP, and the New York Times, the suffering institution which, still tainted by the shadow of the Jason Blair scandal and beset with downward spiraling circulation, dwindling annual revenue, and internal political crises, will go to any length to destroy even the first inkling of competition.
This is the story then of Wal-Mart, Michael Barbaro of the New York Times, and an as yet unknown camaraderie of political blogs: so far most notably the Iowa Voice, Marquette Warrior, Redstate, and Outside The Beltway. I have been privy to private phone conversations, e-mails, and transcripts of what appears to be an act of bitter rage by an established business media hack who may have realised he is being left out of the game just as his lowly contemporaries are being courted. Hence, for much of the information in this piece I have relied upon what is already available online right now, as I am still not at liberty - through personal confidentiality agreements - to reveal the deeper agendas that seem to be in play, but I shall, as best as possible, endeavor to hint at them.
With the seemingly endless rise in popularity of the blogosphere as a medium for news and entertainment communication, there has been little end to speculation and reluctant wonder from the traditional media establishment over the validity and longevity of it all: daily, readers of national newspapers the world over are now subjected to the case study and opinion as to where the medium is headed, and what it all really amounts to.