Last week, hundreds of traditional and online news outlets reported the news that none other than famed New York Times Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Maureen Dowd had mistakenly cribbed entire sections of a recent column from one of the web’s most widely read bloggers.

We’ve said it in this space time and again. With more than three-quarters of traditional journalists now reading the blogs for story ideas, bloggers are rapidly becoming – if they aren’t already – the assignment editors of the mainstream media. But now, in the many news rooms suffering from massive budget cuts and layoffs, it appears that a few bloggers have also moved over to the copy desk.

Yesterday, the Times was forced to issue a correction to Dowd’s column because she “failed to attribute a paragraph” to Talking Points Memo blogger Josh Marshall. While Dowd maintains that the gaffe was an honest mistake, whether she intentionally plagiarized Marshall’s work is irrelevant.

What this incident points to is a rapidly emerging trend where the stalwarts of the online realm – comprised mainly of the more than 100 million bloggers online today – are not only providing the topics covered by the traditional media dinosaurs; they are, in many cases, driving the content of commentary as well.

The lesson from Dowd’s foray into the blogosphere: It is absolutely essential to understand just how radically the art of public relations has changed in the Digital Age.

In today’s communications environment, any strategy relying exclusively on traditional media to advance proactive messaging, protect reputations, and establish market dominance simply will not work.

Today, those that fail to implement comprehensive earned online reputation management and branding programs are not only missing out on an effective development opportunity with proven ROI; they are also opening themselves to potentially devastating reputational damage from online attacks and consumer criticism.

Simply put, if Maureen Dowd is watching the blogs, shouldn’t you be watching them too?

[This article originally appeared on]

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