Bobbie, a contributor at politX, is getting a little tired of bloggers talking about how powerful they are:

While I don’t doubt that, in some way, shape or form, particularly influential webloggers can have a role in certain events or decisions, and that there is something to be said for the public nature of thoughts vocalised through weblogs, I also find that there’s something markedly distasteful about their self-championing egotism.

Remember – despite what they say, these bloggers are not acting for you. Most of the time, like any ordinary newspaper columnist, they don’t care about finding out exactly what the truth is, but are just interested in underlining their own agendas.

* * *
But, unlike professionals, most bloggers are not actively uncovering stories, just bringing to the forefront particular stories written by others. And blog readers, as well as the people who write blogs, are not a new breed of active pursuers of the news; they are old-fashioned news junkies.

News junkies have always existed, and always will. The only difference now is the amount of media we are able to consume, or get others to handily consume for us. We are all current affairs whores, and happily feed on the huge amount of information (of varying quality) that the internet offers us. We like to think this lifts us above the ordinary citizen, because, of course, weblogs hand us a little extra information for our armoury, a little more information, the inside track on stories that normal people wouldn’t know about.

She’s essentially right. While some of the group blogs, notably Command Post and Political State Report, can package existing information in such a comprehensive way that it actually becomes something new, very few bloggers are really adding a whole not of new information to the discourse.

Blogs are good for at least three things, though. First, they highlight stories that aren’t widely covered elsewhere, bringing them to the attention of people who are interested in them. This isn’t nothing. Indeed, it’s a big part of what made Rush Limbaugh so succcessful. While his self-aggrandizement gets old pretty quickly, and it’s amusing to hear him deride “the media,” given that he’s both a member of it and very much relies on it for 99% of his information, simply finding news that has been glossed over and bringing it into prominence is a useful service.

Second, blogs bring expert analysis to the forefront that would otherwise be ignored. With a handful of exceptions, journalists and professional pundits are generalists. They really have only a surface knowledge of the subjects they cover. While this is also true of virtually every individual blogger out there, it is not true collectively. Many if not most of the top bloggers are highly educated individuals with very deep knowledge of at least one subject, be it law, politics, economics, sociology, business, philosophy, or whatever. This can be quite helpful. For example, while I know more about the law, and certainly constitutional law, than most of the public and indeed most journalists, I recognize that I’m not an expert. But if there’s a breaking story on a Supreme Court case, for example, I know I can turn to Eugene Volokh, Glenn Reynolds, or a host of others and get instant expert analysis. I might get that on CNN or FoxNews, but I’d have to 1) be in front of my television and 2) wade through a lot of chit-chat from people who don’t have the slightest idea what they’re talking about to get it.

Third, blogs are more interactive than other media, including even talk radio. Yesterday’s discussion on the constitutional distinctions between filibustering judicial nominees versus bypassing treaties with trade promotion authority, for example, had three political science PhD’s fact-checking one another plus a host of commentary from a variety of readers. I’m not sure where you’d be able to get that sort of thing elsewhere–and certainly not as quickly.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. jen says:

    You’re ignoring the whole entertainment value of blogs here.

    Honestly, I don’t read them for information so much as for the snark behind the information.