The blog vs media discussion is pretty ancient, now, and this isn't meant to reopen what is in many ways an irrelevant discussion. Both are here, both use each other, both have something to offer (for a contemporary example, this longish video of a Fred Friendly seminar on government response to a pandemic also illustrates the dynamic between bloggers and the media in a 'breaking news' setting). In that context, I came across an interesting article as I was writing about the press and their coverage of the Iraq war debate.
To be sure, some people still want knowledge, but it turns out that what the citizenry really craves is an open microphone. The Internet has provided that opportunity. Every day is "open-mike" night in America. The premium isn't on facts, but on attitude. In the early years of the 21st century, the Information Age has morphed into the Age of Opinion. We are all pundits now, and it's not a pretty picture.
That was Carl M. Cannon, writing in the subscription only National Journal, about the effect of the toobz on discourse, knowledge and, I suppose, the liberation of the id. There are real issues documented:
Sara Kiesler, a professor of computer science and "human-computer interaction" at Carnegie Mellon University, has identified five factors that encourage bad behavior online: 1) the likelihood that people in an online community simply reinforce one another's views, in ever-escalating rhetoric; 2) conversely, the easy access -- a single click of the mouse -- for people from an outside group who abhor the dominant ethic of the first group; 3) the kind of anonymity that prompts people in cars to flip the bird to sometime who cuts them off in traffic; 4) fewer social cues -- after all, you're at a computer screen -- to remind people of the norms of behavior; and 5) a low risk of sanctions for those who violate those norms.
Having said that, Kiesler believes that new codes of behavior -- "netiquette" is the term of art -- are evolving. "I think there are technologies, such as rating and reputation systems, that are working within communities to keep people from violating norms," she said in an online interview. "Some online communities have policies and rules, and they kick you out if you don't behave yourself. I think technologies for encouraging good behavior and discouraging bad behavior are going to improve with the ability to track people's social networks across the Internet. It's going to be possible to use people's connections to make them less invisible and less anonymous online."
Cyber-communities like Daily Kos do have imperfect, though reasonably effective, self-policing methods assisted by technology, though self-restraint is always preferable. But lumping political incivility with the darker aspects of "Web-facilitated crimes" runs the risk of missing the reason people want to grab the microphone in the first place.
I think the Internet, the blogging, is the closest we've come in a long time to the history of the American media in the beginning. You know in the 1820's, 1830's all you needed to be a journalist was to buy a press. That's why they called them inkstained wretches. Because they operated their own hand presses. For a little bit of money, like Tom Paine and others, you could have your own press. ... After the revolution independent journalists, printers they called themselves, sprung up all over the country ... they were partisan by the way, vociferously. They attacked the others' politics. but it was a healthy period of bombast in America in which people could sort out the information. I think the bloggers, then the websites, come closest to the spirit of cacophony, to that democratic expression, that we had in the early part of this country's history.
Moyers again, in a net neutrality context:
As Bill Moyers said during his  keynote address in Memphis, the Internet is where we have the chance to truly return the promise of participatory democracy to media.
"This is the great gift of the digital revolution and you must never let them take it away from you," he said.
Finally, an essay well worth re-reading, with plenty to annoy everyone, was posted to the NY Times in 2005 by Federal judge (and blogger) Richard Posner:
In his preface to ''The Future of Media'' (a collection of articles edited by Robert W. McChesney, Russell Newman and Ben Scott), Bill Moyers writes that ''democracy can't exist without an informed public.'' If this is true, the United States is not a democracy (which may be Moyers's dyspeptic view). Only members of the intelligentsia, a tiny slice of the population, deliberate on public issues.
All internet excess can't be endorsed in the name of free speech. Yet, Moyers is right. Democracy is messy, and both civil and incivil verbal protest over, for example, government secrecy or lying us into war will always have a place in American political discourse. A reality-based community will provide links, facts and references that civil (but over-stretched and editorially muzzled) reporters may not. And more to the point, as long as politicians say one thing ("This Iraq policy must change, and I will push hard for that change") and do another ("I will strongly endorse studying the issues - carefully - for a few more years"), the opinions of their constituents are going to be heard, civil or otherwise.