Now I’ve been critical of Atrios (for tone and policy reasons), but he’s someone I respect as a leader and a powerful voice in the current dialogs.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with bloggers getting picked up by think tanks and media organizations (yeah, but where are my offers, anyway??). I think that’s a good thing, and that if part of what blogging has done is to let some civilians move into the pro ranks, that’s neat.
I think there’s more to blogging than that – but that’s another conversation.
But there’s an issue here. (OB Lebowski: Hey! I’ve got an issue here!) As someone who stood behind a pseudonym for a long time (and sometimes kind of wishes he was still there…), I’ve got a huge issue with Atrios’ affiliation, however. And that’s because the nightmare of mine has always been that I would be accused of somehow trimming my blogging to my career, of – on one hand – claiming to write as a disinterested citizen, moved only by my passions and feelings, and – on the other – making a living doing advocacy and therefore by shaping public discourse.
It’s not that people with jobs in advocacy somehow lose their voice, or that they are somehow recused from participating as citizens.
But disclosure is important, because it allows people to weigh what you say and judge it based not only on its merit, but on the question of cui bono? (who gains).
I don’t know if Atrios was just picked up by Media Matters, or if he’s worked there for a year. I don’t know if he got the job because of his blog, or because of his academic credentials.
I wish, more than a little, that I did.
Because one thing about small-scale media is that – compared to the costs of doing business in Big Media – we could be bought cheap. Offer 30 of the highest-profile bloggers jobs for $120,000/year – $3.6 million, a small ad buy – and you could shape political discourse for a year. I believe that the blogosphere would eventually correct for this; it would route around the problem. But I don’t know how fast the credibility of the blog universe would heal.