This is by far the most frequent question I get asked by my journalist colleagues. And I think it stems from a view formed when bloggers first hit mainstream media consciousness in the run-up to the 2004 Presidential election with episodes like 'Rathergate', growing popularity of sharply opinionated political blogs like 'Little Green Footballs' and the 'credentialing' of bloggers for that year's party conventions. This was a time when blogging somehow became a byword for armchair bigotry and thus anathema to those journalists striving for informed neutrality.
My own view is that there are as many different types of blogging as there are uses of any other form of publishing. When confronted by colleagues who say they can't do 'real' blogging because of rules on neutrality I simply ask them to define what is mean by 'real'. The reality is that even the longest-serving bloggers can't agree on what constitutes the essence of blogging (I've certainly never found a convincing definition). And now that mainstream media is adding links and comments to stories -- two features previously deemed quintessential to blogging -- the distinctions are getting ever fuzzier.
If you look at the Wikipedia History of Blogging Timeline (kicked off by Berkman's Lokman Tsui) you'll see that the earliest reference is to Brian E Redman's mod.ber -- a kind of group blog in which a number of people added summaries of interesting things happening elsewhere on the Net. Tim Berners-Lee had a 'What's New' page as far back as 1992 in which he linked to new pages appearing on the Net. It wasn't until later that blogging in the form of online diaries hit the Net. In other words, blogging started as a filter of the best of the web. Surprisingly, not a lot of people know that.
But that's ancient history in blogging terms. What of now? I think the easiest way of dealing with the 'bigot's license' argument is to refer to the Technorati Top 10 and look at what these blogging sites actually contain. This is a bit simplistic but just ask yourself a couple of questions when you go through the sites: 1) How much of the content is really Opinion -- telling you what is good and bad and telling you what will happen next -- and how much is plain information? 2) How much of the content is original in that it is based largely on authors' research, insights and analysis, and how much is largely derivative of material found elsewhere on the Web and thus represents 'aggregation'?
These are the world's most popular blogs. They are heavily skewed towards technology and it might have been better to have looked at the top 100. However, the results are quite interesting. Only the two politics blogs major on 'opinion' and even then Huffington is adding more and more straight politics news to its service. And more than half feature some aspect of 'filtering the Web'.
Most of the best-read blogs are more like Tim Berners-Lee's 'What's New' than Little Green Footballs. Although that's just my opinion.