Deja Blogged

Another thing that blogging reveals is how much journalism is reprinted and recycled from elsewhere.

There’s a glut of post-primary analysis in all the papers, on both sides of the Atlantic, but I somehow feel as if I’ve read it already. This is the blogger’s curse. By the time Gerard Baker in the Times, say, or Rupert Cornwell in the Independent opine on the challenges Obama now faces, I’m already twelve hours ahead.

Andrew Sullivan by Stuck in CustomsI’ll readily admit that another kind of Atlantic, the magazine, is increasingly becoming my one-stop-shop for American news. British ex-pat Andrew Sullivan is a prolific and influential hub, and I’ve heard more than one person declare that his prescient December essay on Obama’s candidacy is what persuaded them in favour of the jug-eared Senator from Illinois.

Granted, that piece of writing was not a blog, but it came from a blogger, and regular readers of Sullivan’s blog will recognise nuggets of information and thoughts that were posted weeks or months earlier on Sullivan’s Daily Dish. The feeling of having read it before is nowhere stronger than in his Sunday Times column, which often summarizes the ongoing conversation he has led on his blog over the past seven days.

At other times, the feeling of having read something before is because I literally have. Halfway through a piece on Obama’s Web 2.0 fundraisers in the Independent, a noteworthy phrase jumped out at me:

“What’s Amazing” says Peter Leyden, “is that Hillary built the best campaign that has ever been done in Democratic politics on the old model. And yet, she’s getting beaten by this political start-up that is essntially a a totally different model of the new politics”.

Only then did I notice that the piece was reprinted from an earlier issue of The Atlantic Monthly, snippets of which I had already seen online. Another thing that blogging reveals is how much journalism is reprinted and recycled from elsewhere. And I include Baker and Cornwell’s most recent offerings in that statement, too.

The danger of all this is of course that the new media becomes much like the old media. The top sites still take the lion’s share of the traffic, aided and abetted by amateurs like me who link to them (people like Clay Shirky have been worrying about this for years). Sullivan already employs an assistant and interns to wade through other blogs and show him interesting stories, so the Daily Dish is already mediated by gatekeepers who decide what is interesting. However, the difference is first one of speed and scale – blogging allows more responses and fact-checking to appear, and quicker too. The second difference is that although sites like the Dish, or in the UK places like Iain Dale’s Diary or (we hope) Liberal Conspiracy are the hub, the content and arguments I am actually reading come from smaller sites, and you do get wider, more diverse range of voices.

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