The blogger role
I was reading this report by Jay Rosen on the recent Kennedy School study of the Trent Lott story and the role blogs played in it (pdf) when I was struck by something: blogs have become trend-spotters for the world of journalism.
Consider this analogy: in the world of fashion there are people who spend their time browsing out-of-the-way boutiques and skimming through pictures of clothing styles from all over the world. The purpose behind this activity is to spot trends that the big fashion houses don't always have the time to see. When they pick up on a particularly interesting new style they bubble it up to the higher level where the big boys can read about it, adopt it, and brand it as their own.
Blogs are performing a similar role for journalism in that they can spot a political trend that is below the radar and bring it to the attention of the professionals in the mainstream media. Who, of course, can then report this information as their own and make a name for themselves as being hip to the next big thing.
Which is why bloggers, with rare exception, will never become "name" players in journalism.