Daily Kos Tops Iowa and NH?

According to a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor: “Blogs still rank well behind traditional television, radio, and newspaper outlets as a source of news, but they are gaining ground rapidly. The liberal blog Daily Kos attracted nearly 4.8 million visitors this July, compared with 3.4 million in January, according to Nielsen//NetRatings…”

The population of Iowa is 2,926,324.

The population of New Hampshire is 1,235,786.

Their total population is, thus: 4,162,110.

That means Daily Kos had more “residents” in July than the two “first in the nation” states for the presidential nomination race. Of course, it is apples and ipods to compares a state with a website, but the numbers do point out the increasing locii of geopolitical power and attention that are blogs. One big difference: to meet everyone in Iowa, you have to travel all over Iowa. To get seen by everyone in Daily Kos land a single headlining post is enough.

Originally posted November 7, 2005 at PolicyByBlog

Blogs as “Scribbling Mercuries”: Marketplace of Ideas or Duel to the Death of Ideas?

The blog is possible through the convergence of many new technologies: revolutions in human communication that were both tipping points (of ideas) and points of the tip (of new things). In parallel, more than half a millennium ago (1452-1454/55), Johann Gutenberg printed his two-volume, 1,282-page, 42-line Bible in Mainz. He produced 180 copies (150 on paper and, it is believed, 30 on parchment), using about 20 assistants in the process. His innovations included a screw press (a converted wine press) and moveable type with individual elements (periods, letters, upper- and lower-case letters).

Interestingly, the small number of Bibles hardly represented a “mass” communication, but one of Gutenberg’s follow-up projects did. To raise money to pay for a crusade against Muslim Turks, the Roman Catholic Church contracted with Gutenberg to print thousands of Letters of Indulgence–certificates the Catholic faithful could buy for cash, absolving them of their sins. The practice was among the chief complaints of a young German monk named Martin Luther who, in 1517, nailed 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral, signaling the beginning of the Reformation. It is hard to imagine that such heresy could have spread so widely and so quickly in the pre-print era. In fact, Luther’s theses would have become only sketchily known by world of mouth (and probably easily suppressed before they became too widespread). But in the developed printworks of Germany, the “Disputation of Doctor Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” would become a mass document.

95thses.jpg

Unlike in China or Korea, which had invented printing earlier but were unified countries with established ruling classes, the print world of Gutenberg was the free-for-all arena of ideologies and political partisanship of 14th century Europe. Printing, therefore, became an instrument of both orthodoxy and revolution. During the religious wars of the 16th century in Central Europe, for instance, each side would prepare innumerable books that propagandized their cause and demonized the enemy. Crucially, however, it was not quite a marketplace of ideas. In areas under stable Church or government control, censorship in what people could print and what they could read was the norm. In Henry XIII’s England, for example, printing a book without the king’s license was punishable by death. [Read more…]

The Coming Anti-Hillary Blogswarm–from the Left?

Natasha Celine of Pacific Views (and a veteran blogger of the “sleepless summer” of Howard Dean) writes to me:

The idea of Hillary Clinton running for president really sounded good to me right after her 2000 campaign, but she killed my enthusiasm with her votes and public statements. She’s wandered between Republican apologist, warmonger, ‘moral’ crusader and ardent supporter of women’s rights. Or maybe healthcare. As if the last things should make up for all the rest of it, as if Democratic politicians haven’t figured out that supporting women’s rights and better health care is literally the least they can do. A floor, if you will, as opposed to a ceiling. It would be putting it mildly to say that I’m disinterested in her candidacy.

See her entire letter in DOCUMENTS section in left sidebar.

Also: “Sonoma” comments on Bob Kunst’s open letter to Hillary Clinton: “No one- and I mean no one- despises the Bushites GOP more than I. But if HC somehow managed to gain the presidential nomination, I would refuse to vote Democratic for the first time, as measured in decades.”

Background: Before the 2004 race, Rhodes Cook argued that “Once the primary voting begins, it is arguable that pragmatism trumps ideology. For the candidates that have done best of late in the primaries have not been the ideologically pure of heart but those who are best funded, best networked, and most capable of rallying their party’s base in its broadest form.” Kerry’s nomination was another case study in such pragmatism by party regulars hungry for victory. But the left of the Democratic “party’s base in its broadest form”–folks like Kunst, Kos, Soto, Gilliard, and Celine, will, I think, argue that (a) so-called pragmatic Democrats keep losing–with Clinton as an exception in many ways–and (b) it is fundamentally disingenuous to shift principles and policy positions to ape polling data and focus groups reports. [Read more…]

Blogs, Flogs, Hitblogs, Identity Theft and Politicians: A New Tool for the Dirty Tricks Bag?

Anyone can start up a blog claiming to be anyone else: sometimes the “identity theft” is satirical and most readers will catch on. “Harriet Miers” blog lampooned (in the first person) the aborted Supreme Court nominee; some Virginia wags started a political blog titled “Not Larry Sabato” in reference to the massively-quoted University of Virginia political science professor. The “Roger Ailes” of the blog of the same name is not the president and CEO of Fox News and the blogger tells us so, in this manner: “Not affiliated with Fox News Channel or any other houses of ill-repute.”

Less identity theft than personal assault are blogs dedicated to attacking the person in the title or address. The bloggers at SantorumExposed.com focus their ire on Pennsylvania republican Senator Rick Santorum. Rockford Illinois-based “Ellis Wyatt” (itself a pseudonym) talks about many subjects at Dump Dick Durbin but the democratic senator is a special target of negative criticism. [Read more…]

Lessons of Sago Disaster–For New Media and Old

Editor & Publisher just put up an op-ed of mine* about the media lessons of the twin disasters at the Sago mine in West Virginia. Again, I think what I say here applies to all forms of media.

MINE RESCUE LESSON: JUST SAY ‘DON’T KNOW’

By David D. Perlmutter/Editor&Publisher.com (January 05, 2006)

In the wake of the Sago mine disaster, perhaps a new category of Pulitzer Prize should be created to honor the journalists or news managers who caution that a story is not ready for prime time or publication. We must re-evaluate how journalism produces and delivers the “first draft of history.”

“Journalism,” claimed former Washington Post publisher Philip Graham, “is the first draft of history.” But when I set my students, as an exercise, to factually verify initial media reports of major news events they are shocked. From the Tiananmen uprisings and government crackdown to the flooding of New Orleans, they find the same sad tale. The first draft is full of errors.

The need to reevaluate how journalism produces and delivers a first draft of news is made even more imperative by the twin disasters of Sago, West Virginia. First, there was the explosion in the coal mine, which apparently led to the eventual death of at least a dozen trapped miners. The second calamity was the false story that most of the miners had survived and were being rescued.

In perspective, the media did not create the rumor that the miners were safe. Miscommunication, misheard phone exchanges, and optimistic gossip probably lay at the root of the bad information. Officials, too, were at fault for not immediately clarifying what they knew and what they did not. But the fact is, most Americans, including probably people who knew the miners, believed the three hours of saturation news reports on television and the Internet that the miners were “rescued.” [Read more…]

Bird Flu Blogging: Truth to Power

UPDATED: 01/09/06

Big media are not as big as we need them to be. A thousand reporters herd to the Michael Jackson trial, but not enough seek out places where really important news is breaking. The number of fulltime foreign correspondents working for so called “major networks” and newspapers has decreased in recent years [1] as has the amount of of money and resources mainstream media spends on foreign newsgathering. [2] Tom Fenton, the veteran foreign correspondent for The Baltimore Sun and CBS News just noted: “American news organizations [have] so depleted the ranks of hard news reporters over the years that they suddenly had to send out whatever lifestyle, fashion, and gossip types they could muster on a moment’s notice.” [3]

The mainstream reporter, as well, often stays in capitals and major cities. Bloggers, however, can specialize, look at nooks and crannies big media don’t care or don’t know about, or don’t have any focus on.

Take Bird Flu: Those two words are getting major big media coverage and government attention.

Here is one item covered by the BBC of a few days ago.

Two teenagers in Turkey have died of bird flu, Turkish officials say, in the first cases outside South-East Asia. [Read more…]

Are Blogs an Echo Chamber?: Do Political Bloggers Only Read Blogs That They Agree With?

[UPDATED]

Frank Athens of the Washington Posts makes an accusation that one hears often cast against blogging:

“[The most] troubling trait of the Internet [is that] Rather than opening minds, it can close them, thanks to echo-chamber Web sites and blogs. We like to read Web sites and blogs that we agree with and that reinforce our opinions. Aside from the few of you who practice “know your enemy” browsing, how many of you liberals read http://www.nationalreview.com/? How many of you conservatives frequent http://www.thenation.com/?

His implication is that blog consumption is ideologically self-referential: liberals read Daily Kos; conservatives read powerlineblog and so on. And never the twain do meet. (See comment by Jeff Jarvis).

Is this true?

First, Athens’ unstated premise is that “neutral platforms” like, say the Washington Post, are superior content providers because they offer an internal marketplace of different, competing ideas, each given equal weight. Well, I’m not sure how many people, left or right, truly believe that the Washington Post, or any television network, delivers, impartial, fair, balanced or objective coverage of the issues of the day. And, as posted here, and commented on by others, partisanship, not objectivity was the norm in the era in which our Founders first safeguarded a free and open press. [Read more…]

Blogs as Political Educators

If one paid attention only to the most sensational postings and most acerbic bloggers, it would be easy to stereotype blogs as unleashing, from the pits of Mordor, an army of frothing, torch-wielding hobgoblins who will propel America toward a Balkan tragedy. But many blogs are political educators of the best kind: teaching a new generation of people concerned about and involved in democracy and activated to serve their country and their community.

One such example is Watchblog, which describes itself as “a multiple-editor weblog broken up into three major political affiliations, each with its own blog: the Democrats, the Republicans and the Third Party (covering everything outside the two major parties.” The creators of the blog explain, “Let’s face it, politics is confusing. Sometimes it’s difficult to know who to believe, who to listen to and who to support. We’re here to help. Posting on a regular basis are editors representing each major party. Stay informed.”

Each of the two major parties and the “other” is given its own section within the blog. Watchblog is a wonderful teaching tool that I use because of its compare-and-contrast format. Want to know what right blogs and left blogs and other blogs said on Cindy Sheehan or Hurricane Katrina or Dick Durbin’s Guantanamo remarks? Here are some of them compiled for us to assess. In addition, we can also judge the stances of the different political parties on topics and issues of the day from taxes to the war in Iraq, although some of these can be as vague and obtuse as any regular political discourse.

In the future, there will be more blogs that serve as political educators and more big media coverage of that function.

As stated in an earlier post, it is not clear whether blog readers use blog content to seek out “feedback that fits” or to compare goods in the marketplace of ideas. My opinion is that blogging helps democracy best when we use blogs not to confirm our beliefs, but to explore them.

Originally posted January 11, 2006 at PolicyByBlog

Do Bloggers Wear Political Blinders?

UPDATED

Earlier I discussed the issue of whether bloggers wore political blinders, that is they tended to only read, quote and trust other blogs of the same political feather. By bloggers, of course, we mean both people who edit blogs, that is have their own blog and the greater number of people who read and/or comment within blogs. I argued that while this stereotype was in part true, based on my studies of my students, it was not a black and white world, of, say, conservative blogs and blog editors and readers never reading Daily Kos or MYDD.

One research study on this question–which did not look at blog readers but blogs themselves–reinforces the view that partisan readership is a tendency not a chasm.

A study by Lada Adamic (of HP Labs) & Natalie Glance (of Intelliseek) of posts and blogrolls of “A-List” liberal and conservative blogs between the period of August 29, 2004 and November 15, 2004 found that partisan bloggers tended to cite and blogroll their own, that is, liberal blogs referenced other liberal blogs and conservatives referenced other conservative blogs. Bloggers, however, did regularly reference mainstream media–although of course they may have done so toward negative criticism–but there was a greater likelihood for conservative bloggers to reference conservative periodicals such as the Washington Times, the New York Post, Wall Street Journal Opinion Online, and Fox News, while liberal bloggers tended to reference liberal mainstream sources such as Salon.com, the Los Angeles Times, and the New Republic. The top three cited mainstream news sources for both left and right bloggers were the Yahoo news service, Washington Post.com, and NewYorkTimes.com. [Read more…]

No Man or Woman Blogs Alone?

A loose association of “center-right bloggers” recently jointly published, in all their blogs, an “appeal” about the House Republican leadership contest in reaction to the recent lobbying scandals. They write, in part:

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

Among the signators are such well-known bloggers as John Hinderaker of powerlineblog, Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, Hugh Hewitt, Ed Morrissey of CaptainsQuarters, Michelle Malkin, Mike Krempasky of RedState.org, and Bruce Carroll of GayPatriot.

There are many lonely blogs out there, people who get few or no readers, but in a metaphorical sense no one blogs alone. One of the keys to blogging is groupness and group identity, as in, “I am part of this group; I oppose these enemies.” Blogrolling, hat tipping, citing, and formal alliances of bloggers create senses of group. There are also formal groups of Iowa liberal blogs, black conservative blogs, and so on. [Read more…]