…it is hard to imagine what America would look like without the small and shrinking number of people who engage in painstaking, firsthand research in order to separate the truth from the body of supposed facts, and who keep the rest of us honest.

That’s what David Samuels wrote about John Coster-Mullens, the author of a book-length work on the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

You know what’s surprising about this? The man who’s being accorded this respect is not and never has been a journalist: he’s a truck driver.

2009 looks to be a year of involuntary adventures for so many in the newsroom and out of it. And as Ellen’s post, Couch Potatoes and Journalism Culture points out, an army of volunteers is unlikely to replace what we’re currently losing as newspapers shrink or fold.

Yet the strange tumult keeps turning up buried treasure. When I started Placeblogger, I really never thought we would find so many placeblogs, and yet, there they are, and we’re still finding them. Yesterday we got thousands of items from over 3,000 placeblogs. And we discovered more placeblogs (and got a bit of spam, too). What you can see at Placeblogger is not a replacement or a substitute, but I remain astonished each day as I watch the feed go by — of cat pictures and storm reports and writeups of town politics. I’m astonished that they are there at all, and that they are there in such glorious profusion and variety.

No, it is not a substitute or a silver lining. It will not put journalists to work and it does not have a dental plan. I am sorry that we have no cures to bring from the undiscovered precincts of the Internet. And though I would love to conclude on an upbeat note, it seems to me that 2009 will have quite a few people out of work.

What do you think 2009 will bring for journalism?