As Andrew Sullivan prepares to stop blogging, a decision he announced in a note to his readers, many are trying to parse what this moment means for opinion journalism.
Is it the end of the blogging era?
Could The Dish survive without its headliner, like The Tonight Show after Johnny Carson? Or does this conclude an experiment in commentary and curation paid for by a community of readers rather than a collection of advertisers?
As for Sullivan, could stepping away from the news cycle afford him the sort of perspective that allowed, say, David Simon to create The Wire after leaving newspapers? Will he find that, despite his best intentions, he just can't quit blogging? Scores of different questions could as easily be pegged to this announcement.
For answers, I looked back.
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In 2000, the year when Andrew Sullivan began blogging, AOL and Time Warner announced their ill-fated merger, The Tribune Company paid $8 billion for The Los Angeles Times and a collection of other media properties, and Internet penetration in the United States hadn't quite reached 60 percent of the population. Google AdWords launched that year. Facebook wouldn't exist for four more years.
That fall, Rebecca Blood published "weblogs, a history and perspective," tracing the format to 1997 and aptly describing it for the uninitiated. "Their editors present links both to little-known corners of the web and to current news articles they feel are worthy of note. Such links are nearly always accompanied by the editor's commentary," she wrote. "An editor with some expertise in a field might demonstrate the accuracy or inaccuracy of a highlighted article or certain facts therein; provide additional facts he feels are pertinent to the issue at hand; or simply add an opinion or differing viewpoint from the one in the piece he has linked."