The Wilson Quarterly

Are blogs the future of journalism? Today, a number of the most popular political blogs have far more readers than prestigious print publications such as The Nation or The New Republic. But though many bloggers fancy themselves cutting-edge journalists, they aren't doing the heavy lifting required by actual reporting, writes Emerson College journalism professor Mark Leccese.

Leccese looked at six top political blogs—three conservative (Michelle Malkin, Instapundit, and Power Line) and three liberal (Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, and Crooks and Liars)—over a one-week period in January 2008, at the beginning of the presidential primary season. Of the 2,087 links that appeared on the front pages of these blogs, nearly half (46.5 percent) directed the reader to main stream media outlets, such as CNN or MSNBC. The New York Times was far and away the most linked-to source, with nearly nine percent of all links pointing to a page somewhere on its site.

Only 15.5 percent of links pointed to primary sources (including government Web sites, think tank reports, and candidate’s pages). Daily Kos and Power Line both outdid their competitors, with 26 and 18.8 percent of links, respectively, pointing to primary sources. Twenty-three percent of links went to other blogs and 15 per cent connected to a blog’s own prior posts.

When it comes to news gathering, blogs aren't a good replacement for mainstream newspapers. They are more like op-ed pages, digesting the day’s news and spitting out commentary and analysis. But is that really journalism? Rebecca Blood, a long-time blogger and author of a handbook on blogging, writes, “Frankly, no. I am not practicing journalism when I link to a news article reported by someone else and state what I think—I've been doing some thing similar around the water cooler for years.”

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The Source: "Online Information Sources of Political Blogs" by Mark Leccese, in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Autumn 2009. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr/Mike Licht

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