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Wherefore This Sphere of Blog?

There’s an interesting kerfuffle going on over at local Oregon blog Quark Soup. Last week, the author wrote a post lamenting the sad state of the blogosphere*, basically saying it’s where good writers go to die and bad writers never leave:

There just isn’t much meat out there. Amateur bloggers just seem to spread useless gossip. And what’s especially bad, “professional bloggers” seem so intent on posting 20 times a day that all of their individual posts are basically useless, conveying nothing whatsoever.

The author laid into Atlantic bloggers Andrew Sullivan and Matt Yglesias in particular. Surprisingly, both Sullivan and Yglesias responded on their respective blogs. Yglesias’ response was rather muted, but Sullivan had some interesting things to say.

Sullivan claims that blogging is “a form of conversation, not a medium of absolute authority.”

The point is that I don’t expect or hope that any reader relies on the Dish alone. The Dish is a portal as well as well as a blog – to all the information and ideas percolating out there. And my role has evolved from purely an opiner to a web DJ of sorts, re-mixing and finding and editing the thoughts and images and facts of others.

I like the idea of bloggers being web DJ’s, especially considering the general douchebaggery of most DJ’s and bloggers.

In all seriousness, though, I think both the author of Quark Soup and Sullivan have valid points. The overwhelming majority of blogging is time-wasting drivel, only good for a cheap laugh or momentary diversion, but I also think that some good bloggers manage to be a little more than an info-jockey. For example, Megan McArdle is a good example of a conversation blogger. She often gets into some very interesting debates with other writers, and it’s fun to see them toss ideas back and forth.

However, one thing that disappointed me was that nobody in the exchange mentioned the use of blogging for original reporting. I think there is a huge potential for advocacy journalism in blogging. No time, length or editorial constraints, not to mention the information is instantly and universally available. Unfortunately, there is only a small percentage of bloggers, probably about .o1 percent, that are actually using it.

I’ve been a big fan of Radley Balko in this respect. Writers like Balko inspired me to go beyond regurgitating news stories and do some original reporting, such as my coverage of the Pacifica Forum. (It’s not like I’m the first on the Commentator blog to do this, though. It would be almost criminal if I didn’t mention Ted’s coverage of the ASUO last year, which, in addition to kicking the crap out of the ODE, probably played a big part in the shakeups that happened in student government this year).

Well, what say you, readers? Is the blogosphere a wasteland of vapid web DJ’s, a form of conversation or a powerful tool for advocacy journalism? (And you can’t choose a middle ground. We only deal in false dichotomies around here).

* I hate the word “blogosphere” with the burning rage of a thousand exploding suns, but I couldn’t really get around it. Sorry.

  1. Vincent says:

    Is the blogosphere a wasteland of vapid web DJ

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