Photo by Hawks and Doves (Flickr)

“I am a blogger no longer.” That’s what Marc Ambinder wrote last fall in announcing that he was leaving the Atlantic to become the White House correspondent for the National Journal.

The announcement made waves on the Internet because he is one of the first and most successful electronically-based political reporters the web has ever known.

Ambinder described blogging as an “ego-intensive” process where one has to put one’s self in the narrative even when doing straight reporting of the news. Ambinder set this in contrast to good print journalism which he described as “ego-free,” “let[ting] the story and the reporting process… unfold without a reporter’s insecurities or parochial concerns intervening.”

Even more to the core of his frustration were concerns about writing and editing: “I loved the freedom to write about whatever I wanted but I missed the discipline of learning to write about what needed to be written. I loved the light editorial touch of blogging but I missed the heavy hand of an editor who tells you something sucks and tells you to go back and rewrite it.”

What editors wouldn’t love to hear that? But Ambinder’s post and his job change also got us thinking about was how, in the social sciences, we don’t just have editors, we have a whole community of scholars who contribute to our thinking, who review our work, and who confirm and help disseminate our ideas and information.

The community-driven, collaborative nature of the scientific process can be cumbersome and time-consuming—basically, it’s on the other end of the spectrum of blogging. That’s often frustrating, especially when we think we have something of real value to contribute to public discussion and debate right now (!).  It all takes a lot of time and rarely culminates in definitive conclusions or easy answers. But it’s what we do and what (we believe) our communities need. When it works, it sings; its value is obvious, immediate, palpable.