I guess we've come to a general consensus. Rock!
My main point through all of this is not to view blogs through the prism of an an all-out war with newspapers. Rather, I see them as new medium, embarking on the same journey of institutionalization that every new medium before has traveled.
I'll give you a snapshot of history before radio and TV: in 1918 Detroit had the Detroit News, the Detroit Tribune, the Detroit Journal, the Detroit Evening Journal and the Detroit Times as dailies, as well as the Sunday Herald. By 1950, that number was down to three. By the mid-'60s, it was down to two. In 1989, the Freep and News entered a joint operating agreement, essentially making them one monolithic news source. These moments coincide directly with the advent of radio, television, and cable news, respectively as viable media.
What we've seen from history, particularly the history of newspapers, is that it's not necessarily the creme de la creme of journalism who survive. The transition through capitalism will reward the most accessible, which are not necessarily the best.
As newspapers grew, they gave up on certain markets that were too small. The Democratic Free Press and Michigan Intelligencer, first published by Sheldon McKnight as an anti-slavery Democrats' paper in the 1830s, didn't even think to appeal to a large audience -- they saw a niche between a paper published by Jackson Democrats (which was pro-slavery), and one published by the "Yankee"-ish folks. Over time, the Free Press morphed its editorial mission to please the general public of Detroit and Southeast Michigan, and then the world.
This transition will happen to blogs, too. It comes with institutionalization, which is a necessity for the medium to increase its economic viability.
Think of it this way: if blogs replace newspapers, how can blogs make enough money to do the things we expected of newspapers?
One way to institutionalize would be for blogs to combine. Maybe it starts with an agreement between 20 great college football blogs across the country, where they all pay into a trust. That trust sells ads for all the sites (opening up a much bigger revenue stream for the bloggers), and also provides services for the bloggers, such as IT help, secondary hosting, what have you. Over time, that institution grows -- when one blogger wants to move on to something else, they have to approve the replacement. Then they start picking the replacements.
They also hire national reporters -- guys who can cover major recruiting events, go to games, and provide extra high-end content for the blogging coalition. They contract with a publishing house to print extra-blog materials. In essence, they identify market opportunities and exploit them. The blogs they represent, now making more money, also grow. They take on writing staffs. They take on Web experts. They take on local salesmen.
Over enough time, you've built a media machine much like those that grew from newspapers. They become ownership groups. They focus on cost-cutting, which is essential because much of what used to be free on the Internet (e.g. video streaming) has been monetized. The cost cuts change the blogs.
Yellow Journalism was one step along the way for newspapers. It wasn't necessarily a "necessary evil," so much as a warning. What happened was that the 10 newspapers in a given region realized they'd make more money by banding together, and this trend continued until there were only a few monoliths, who then could act with impunity. As you point out, we have a similar effect going on today with the major national papers.
Yellow journalism proved the folly of tying the a medium's credibility to a man rather than an institution; if the death of Ben Franklin spelled the beginning of the end for his Gazette, Pulitzer and Hearst spelled the beginning of the end for solo-publishing. Blogs will hit this point eventually as well -- one day Arianna Huffington will have something blow up in her face, and though she'll still have a following, her usefulness to the mass general public will diminish (as has that of most conservative radio personalities and bloggers already).
I don't make any judgment about what's best, or right, or what have you. Blogs have been able to fill a market niche of deep, high-end content in niche fields that was lost when newspapers had to shrink and conglomerate to compete with TV, etc. Over time, however, time and the lure of capital will force blogs into the same institutionalization.
The creation of more and more blogs will also force institutionalization, to prevent the dilution of the market. Like the 1700s in newspapers (which, too, were largely filled with reader contributions), as a regular poster becomes more and more known and respected, the likelihood increases that he will break off and form his own blog. That new blog will inherently compete for pageviews with the parent blog. To prevent this, the big blogs will need to bring their best contributors into the fold (once they have the money to do so, of course). They will also, as newspapers did, swallow up their competition. This effect is already happening -- note the popular Red Wings blog "Behind the Jersey" is now folded into the SBNation blog "Winging It in Motown." SBNation itself, in fact, is an institutionalizing force.
The big difference for blogs as opposed to previous media is, as you said, the readers get to post. This is a blessing and a curse. Yes, the readers on this blog have done most of the policing. On the other hand, just recently the most popular fan-post was "Jury's Still Out on Rodriguez," a troll attack. How blogs ultimately deal with trolling will help define the future of this medium. I imagine it will involve a development of more complicated user levels, granting greater access to contributors of higher quality. Of course, to do this right will require a full-time quality manager, i.e., an editor.
MGoBlog is fantastic..for us. But it's also limited by its own nicheness. How many smart, Internet-enabled Michigan football fans are there out there? Certainly there's still room to grow, but not infinitely -- under our standards, for example, there is little room for the masses who post on M-Live, or Rivals. If you want to grow, though, you have to take on new markets. And in a capitalist market, you either grow, or you die.
Maybe we'll be so lucky that Brian will be happy with what this blog brings him as an independent entity, and he won't lose interest or quality for another 30 years. I hope so. But even if that happens, he'll still need to keep finding new and better sources of information, and he'll still want to make enough money to send his kids to good schools (or Michigan State), and he'll want (and we'll want him) to take advantage of institutionalization's market benefits to the reader.
Put it this way -- the school sees it as its responsibility to allow the press access, because otherwise the press will incite the fanbase. But would you turn away from Michigan football if Brian was kicked out of the room and denied information? Institutionalization gives the press the power to represent their readers' interests; a niche blog has far less pull.
I wish every medium would return to the quality level that Brian has. I wish the blogosphere would generate an MGoBlog for every niche interest in the country, and bigger MGoBlogs where I could get my political news and my local news, etc.
But what country do you think this is? What market are we operating in? How much of the market shares the same tastes as us?