I've toiled in the cyber-fields for close to a decade now (I was the founding editor of National Review Online), and what fascinates me is how the Internet is allowing the nation to return to its historical relationship with the media, not how it's changing everything.Writes Drum: "Yes, blogs are often shrill, boisterous, and unapologetically partisan. But that's a good thing. People who prefer reading to listening or watching haven't really had a rabble-rousing mass medium at their disposal for a long time, and blogs are a chance to recreate a part of Americana that we've sorely missed for the past half century."
In the 19th century, newspapers played a different role from the one we think they're "supposed" to play....American newspapers were never as unapologetically and uniformly partisan as European ones were (and still are), but they were still mostly creatures of specific political biases. There were Republican and Democratic newspapers, populist and communist newspapers, union and anti-union newspapers. These publications served as vehicles for partisan education and crusading personalities, in much the same way leading blogs do today.
Take another look at the most flagrantly partisan websites today: the liberal Daily Kos and its conservative doppelganger, Red State. What you see are media outlets trying to serve the same function as newspapers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
One of the challenges in attracting an audience while doing a blog like Public Eye is that we strive to not be "shrill, boisterous, and unapologetically partisan" – traits that tend to drive traffic by appealing to ideologically like-minded subcultures. That's the way it works when you're affiliated with a mainstream media outlet. It's interesting to me that the blog universe and the mainstream media universe are essentially inverted when it comes to this issue – in blogs, the partisans are the mainstream, while the nonpartisan toil more or less on the margins. In the mainstream media, on the other hand, the partisan outlets – like the Nation and National Review – are the more marginalized ones.
Now, there are plenty of people, many of them bloggers, who would argue that the mainstream media is partisan. But it's interesting that the Internet seems to have helped shift the public towards perspectives that were long considered outside the mainstream when they appeared on the printed page.