What’s Next In Blogs: 4 Questions For “Bloggers On The Bus” Author Eric Boehlert

Newspapers are dying, magazines are closing and more journalists are finding themselves without paying gigs every day. Everyone is wondering: what does the future hold for the media? We brought the questions to the front lines, asking leaders in the field to tell us: what’s next?

This week, we decided to talk blogs with author Eric Boehlert. Set against the backdrop of the 2008 presidential election, Boehlert’s new book, “Bloggers On The Bus — How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press,” discusses how the liberal blogosphere affects political candidates and campaigns. He told us about how the relationship between newspapers and blogs are changing with the death of newspapers and what conservative bloggers have to do to keep up with successful liberal blogs like the Huffington Post.

FBNY: What do you think about the relationship between traditional media and blogs?

Eric Boehlert: I think it’s painful to see the newspapers in a downward spiral because I think blogs do the best when they augment the traditional press. The blogosphere sort of lives alongside traditional media and helps fill in the gaps. Blogs help keep the press accountable and raise issues that the traditional media is overlooking or forgetting. They can be a watchdog while having their own original content and analysis. It makes me nervous when people say we don’t need newspapers. In a perfect world, newspapers and blogs would live alongside each other.

FBNY: But the traditional media is cutting back drastically, in terms of staff and content. How is that changing the relationship between the two?

EB: Cutbacks hurt everyone in general. When you take a vibrant metro newspaper and chop it to the bone so that there’s nothing left besides sports and AP content, readers will go online to find information. My concern is that the information that they can get online is not the information that has been eliminated from the local paper. I think the blogosphere will pick up readers, but then again blogs were really created to revolve around the mainstream press and fill in the gaps. If the mainstream press withers and dies, I think the blogosphere in its current form will die with it. But it will become something else.

FBNY: Political affiliations are very evident in the blogosphere. But the Huffington Post, a liberal blog, has become a forum for conservatives as well. What do you think of that?

EB: I think that highlights a complete failure of the conservative blogsphere. They don’t have a platform for their own pundits. Matt Drudge offered a platform in the late 90’s, but the Drudge Report looks the same as it did in 1998. It has no community, it’s a one-way interaction. That’s what Matt Drudge wants and conservatives seem to be happy with it. But in the liberal blogosphere, the Huffington Post has created this interactive experience. It’s so much more dynamic and interactive and living and breathing compared to the Drudge Report. So it doesn’t surprise me that when conservative politicians want to have their voice heard they go to the Huffington Post. Conservative bloggers are completely ineffectual. They’re just not able to accomplish what the liberal blogs have been able to accomplish.

FBNY: What do you think conservative bloggers have to do to become competitive with liberal blogs like the Huffington Post?

EB: If someone wants to reinvent the conservative blog, they have to make a break from the talk radio approach that they currently use, which is a completely fact-free, relentlessly unhinged attack on the Obama administration. A lot of conservative bloggers have embraced the Rush Limbaugh approach to journalism. Right now they are in charge of the game and until anyone can make a clean break with that they are going to be saddled with the Rush Limbaugh approach. I don’t think anyone will take them seriously until someone steps forward and tries to denounce this approach. No one is willing to do that or can do that, although many people are looking to Meghan McCain. She might be the one who can do it.