Blogging the presidency: pros and cons

Some reflections on blogging, journalism, and my last post. A common cry of bloggers is that journalists don’t touch investigations with lots of hard work, uncertain payoff, and that are politically sensitive. A complaint from many liberal bloggers was that the press parroted GOP criticisms of Kerry’s war record while staying silent on George W. Bush’s service—spotty attendance and all—in the Reserves. When CBS went after the story in a big way, I cheered—until one of the memos proved a forgery. Then I fumed. Once Big Media was burned, I figured, they wouldn’t touch the story again and it would die down—even though the rest of the allegations about Bush’s record were provable.

Thankfully, this is where bloggers come in. Paul Lukasiak, aka The AWOL Project, has been collecting information and going after Bush’s Reserve record using regulations, publicly available documents, and hard work to uncover the meaning behind the codes. This is a thankless job that few journalists would touch, especially after CBS’s embarrassment; but bloggers have continued to chase the story and are turning up some valuable findings.

So what’s the problem? I think there’s a danger that a lot of us spend a lot of energy on issues like this one precisely because they’re bloggable and lend themselves to being addressed by individuals with time on their hands, rather than looking at less personal issues about the president like his health care policies and education strategies. The problem, which the Kerry campaign appears fortunately to have identified, is that health care and education are two of the three hot-button issues for voters this election. So where are all the health care bloggers? That’s something I’d like to be reading about.

Don’t get me wrong: I think the AWOL Project is doing great work, and it’s a kind of work I’ve done in the past as well (see “Hunting for the Halliburton Contract” and “How to Spend $2 Billion”). But we need to get the blogosphere past the point where we focus on one or two issues at the expense of others that might be equally valuable to explore.