I have long felt that it is vanity for blogs and newspapers to treat news about the relay of news in the same way it does actual news. That said, there is something to be learned by watching the occasional trends in reporting. In a move that is getting a great deal of discussion in the military blogging community, Andrew Exum, aka Abu Muquwama, announced on Monday that he intends to discontinue regular blogging.
Abu Muquwama is a rarity in the military community, in that he is a self-proclaimed center-left figure who the military establishment takes seriously; he understands the tactical and operational levels of war; he is comfortable with the use of force. In my mind, he reflected the Truman branch of liberalism. While Abu Muquwama will continue on as an active blog, Andrew Exum will post less frequently, and the blog will serve primarily as an outlet for Londonstani, a correspondent in the Af/Pak region.
This reminds me of the transition that CNN experienced after the first Gulf War. While CNN had been around for years, it was only in the First Gulf War that it really came into its own. The hourly riveting and relatively sterile images made for extremely high ratings and propelled people like Wolf Blitzer into the national spotlight. However, after the war, a 24 hour news cycle was difficult to maintain, and CNN suffered. (Faced with a similar dilemma after the invasion of Iraq, the news channels increased their commentary to fill the gap.)
Similarly, Andrew Exum, like many bloggers, had plenty of fodder with two wars ongoing, and lots of news flowing out of both Afghanistan and Iraq. Quick evaluations based on experience could influence the course of debate, and that is exactly the role Abu Muquwama and others played. Now, a lot less information is reported in the news. Iraq has fallen off the radar almost completely, and most of the news about Afghanistan seems to be about the Obama administration's grappling with the war's complexities instead of actual events inside the country. As such, there is much less to comment or report on, unless you are on the ground like Londonstani, or Michael Yon. Unfortunately, the decline in readily available information means that the Western public is forming opinions on even less information than before, and in my opinion, that bodes ill for informed decision making on the part of democratic states.