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Bloggers as Watchdogs, Though Ones Who Could Use a Meal

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, July 29 2009

Mother Jones interviewsMother Jones interviews Eric Boehlert, author of Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press and a senior fellow at Media Matters. MoJo asks Boehlert whether political bloggers on the left are serving as effective watchdogs now that we've got Barack Obama in the White House and Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate. They are, says Boehlert. He frames his answer by talking of a blogger who blends some journalist, some activist, and some cheerleader:

I think they've been doing a really good job. They've split their time up into three activities. 50 percent of it is just playing defense against the unhinged right wing response on how Obama is a socialist and a Marxist and he wants to take your guns. 25 percent is trying to prod and cheerlead when the administration does something that it likes and that it approves of or maybe has a liberal flavor to it, and the other 25 percent is critiquing the administration. We've seen it on war funding, we've seen it on gay marriage, we've seen it on wire tapping. I think there was this notion, particularly among the conservative critics, to say, 'well Obama is elected, and bloggers are going to roll over and they're just going to be a mouthpiece for the administration.' But that's not what happened and I never thought it would because the blogosphere was never created to be an appendage to the DNC or to cheerlead Democratic politicians. It was always created to give a voice to liberalism in America. Liberal bloggers are still going to do that. I mean, they're happy that a Democrat is in the White House who's more receptive to their priorities and their agenda, but they're not just going to stop because a Democrat is in the White House.

Boehlert doesn't make the connection, but when he says the economics of progressive blogging are "frankly...pretty awful" and with few institutional funders -- well, beyond the omnipotent George Soros, of course (kidding!) -- there's an argument to be made that it's in fact this hybrid journalist-activist-critic-watchdog style of blogging that makes it difficult to match some bloggers with deep-pocketed supporters. At least, traditional funders who are looking to check a box when they write a check. That said, it's difficult to separate out the poor state of political blog funding from the general poor state of the economy, and the disastrous state of news publishing in particular.