Is Jonathon Kay right?
If the Natty Post and the NY Times were to disappear, could bloggers essentially take over, or would something be lost? I remember talking with someone (might have been Steve V) about waiting for National News Watch to update in the morning, because it supplied the news about which we bloggers could then opinionate.
Is he right? Is that all "we" do and, if the primary content providers go kerflooey, would we have anything to write about?
Well, as someone who, as well as exploring the intersection between "boobies and power", makes an occasional attempt to "break" news the MSM has missed, I think there are a couple of ways to go beyond mere editorializing.
1) Read everything on topic X and cobble together an Uber story, hoping that the whole will exceed the sum of the parts. For example, the saga of Tom Zytaruk and the Cadman tapes is really a detective story stretched out over several months and any number of news stories and blog posts. Reassembling the various pieces can actually provide insight and, if you make yourself aware of all that has gone previously, occasionally you can add a small piece or two that wasn't there before.
Of course, this depends on there being MSM content already in place.
2) Read everything, basically. I regularly scavenge the Blogging Tory sites, Lifesite, FreeD, and several dozen email lists and forums, in search of material that is not available elsewhere. Occasionally you do find stuff that has not yet reached the papers. I am particularly happy about these two posts, about how Mississauga Tories trash-talked their candidate Melissa Bhaghat on the Net for, essentially, being a ex-Liberal and not being an old white guy. The reason I am happy about them is that, about a week after the 2nd post, a story appeared in The Toronto Star that rehashed very much the same ground. This blog was not mentioned, but its pretty clear it served as one of the sources.
And when Anne Cools got booted from the Tory caucus, you read it first here. This kind of thing does not rely on a "real" reporter to do the work for you.
But what about Kay's main point?
Not to be old-fashioned, but there are certain kinds of important stories that simply cannot be covered, except by deep-pocketed traditional media organizations employing professional journalists.
Well, yeah. I can send an email off to people when I have questions. For example, Tom Zytaruk has replied and offered small insights to his story that I've not seen elsewhere. And I've occasionally had scientific luminaries like Tom Holtz and Terry Sloan lend their expertise to a blog post. However, that's about all I can do. I can't make long-distance calls, I can't physically go looking for anyone. Unless someone pays me to do it. I've offered my services to Macleans since they disappeared Steyn, but so far there's been no response.
Oh and legal liabilities, too. If you try to uncover facts, you occasionally get them wrong. I would love to huddle under the wings of a media conglomerate when this happens (although I also think this kind of protection leads to sloppy reporting).
What I would like to see is: the aggregator becomes the paper. Bloggers submit to the aggregator, which is now a commercial enterprise, and the aggregator pays the blogger directly, as well as providing legal insurance and etc. The reader visits the aggregator and goes directly to the writers they want to read, which constitute a fluid, ever-changing line-up.
Don't know how likely or possible a future like that really is, but its what I'd like to see...