Washington Post “Shuts off comments”: Big Media’s Troubles in Adapting to Blogging


The biggest question facing political and news workers in the years to come will be “what do I do about blogs?” Many newspapers and political campaigns will have to experiment, since nobody has yet written a definitive rule book on integrating blogs into big media and professional politics; indeed, PolicyByBlog is about that process of exploration. And blogs may evolve faster than large corporations or campaigns can adapt to them.

Take the Washington Post. Like many newspapers, it has opened up blogs as yet another component of its online edition. One is edited by its ombudsman, Deborah Howell.

Self-evident good idea, yes? Build new interactivity with readers, cultivate (possible) customer loyalty, be up-to-date.

The Post, however, just announced that for the time being “we have shut off comments on this blog indefinitely.” [Read more…]

Interview with Managing Editor of WATCHBLOG

As noted here earlier, one of the expanding roles of bloggers is that of political educator to the public. To that end, I often refer students to Watchblog, whose principle of “critique the message, not the messenger” and its three-column-formatted roundup of blogging by “Democrats and Liberals,” “Moderates and Independents” and “Republicans and Conservatives” provides a one-stop marketplace of ideas.

I recently interviewed David R. Remer, Watchblog‘s Managing Editor, who is also President of Vote Out Incumbents for Democracy.

PBB: What is the essence of Watchblog, that is what do you see its role and function in the world of blogs?

Remer: IMO, the essence of WatchBlog is its capacity to maintain civil discourse in what is ultimately a public laypersons arena where they can pretend to become politically active. When one is paid by a party to disseminate political information, that information MUST conform to supporting that party regardless of issue or event. Political truth is in the eye of the beholder and there are a number of opposing beholders out there. WatchBlog assembles non-professional consumers of political news, events, and philosophies who are capable of acceptable writing skills, and gives them a platform upon which to extoll the virtues of their analysis as consumers of political news and events to other consumers of political news and events, in a relatively safe social environment.

In other words, the essence of WatchBlog is political news and event discussion by, and for the lay person without the fear of being bashed or threatened personally for disseminating, defending, or discovering their “political truth”. Go to a store or restaurant and try to engage strangers in a political debate. It won’t happen, or if it does, it carries the risk of elevating to a physical conflagration. WatchBlog gives writers and responders alike a safe place to exchange ideas, critique each others views, and hatch new truth’s from differing political viewpoints. [Read more…]

Interview with Suzanne Stefanac (Dispatches from Blogistan), Part 1.

Interview with Suzanne Stefanac (Dispatches from Blogistan: a Travel Guide for the Modern Blogger)

Perlmutter: Tell me how you came to write a book on blogs?

Stefanac: My trajectory here mirrors a lot of what went on in the computer industry. Once the Web started to take hold, its tentacles went very deep here. I had been writing for computer magazine for years, and so when the Web first started up, and Macworld? offered me the head of MacWorld online, the magazine didn’t know what to do with it, I think. Nobody knew what to do with any of it yet. I had great hopes for it. It was 1994 and there really weren’t good database and search tools for the Web yet and I thought search was so important.… I felt like there were two great advances in civilization: plumbing and search algorithms. [Read more…]


In my book (BLOGWARS, forthcoming, OXFORD, 2007) I try to make the point that it is time to move on from the confrontational blogger-vs-MSM bipolarity of the earlier days of blogging. The so-callled MSM needs bloggers and is, in fact, “blogging up.” Bloggers are becoming a normal part of the spectrum of media. But we still have brushfire battles, and perhaps they are the “birth pains” of a new media alignment. I wrote the article below for E&P–predictably I got some hate mail from journalists saying I was too pro-blogger, and from some bloggers saying I was a lackey of the MSM…or Hezbollah! Oh, well, if you support a marketplace of ideas you should not expect it to be tidy and nice. That said, as links below show, most bloggers who cited the piece understood I was trying to be fair to all parties…


By David D. Perlmutter, Editorandpublisher.com, August 17, 2006

(August 17, 2006) — The Israeli-Hezbollah war has left many dead bodies, ruined towns, and wobbling politicians in its wake, but the media historian of the future may also count as one more victim the profession of photojournalism. In twenty years of researching and teaching about the art and trade and doing photo-documentary work, I have never witnessed or heard of such a wave of attacks on the people who take news pictures and on the basic premise that nonfiction news photo- and videography is possible.

I’m not sure, however, if the craft I love is being murdered, committing suicide, or both. [Read more…]


Before I started working on a book on blogs (BLOGWARS) almost all my research was on photojournalism and its famous icons and mediated imagery of other kinds. Obviously it is of great interest to me that blogging has driven the great controversy over visual coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah war. That prompted me to write my “Photojournalism in Crisis” essay for Editor&Publisher which I posted on here at PBB and was picked up my many blogs.

Some updates…


Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor&Publisher has published a major “DEFENSE OF WAR PHOTOGRAPHERS” against attacks by bloggers. (See Part I and Part II). Very much worth reading in counterpoint to my original E&P piece as well.



This is an important post—perhaps when a future history of blogs is written “The Red Cross Ambulance Incident” will be considered a landmark of the genre. Certainly it moves forward the great “fauxtography” debate, but more than that it helps legitimize bloggers as people who both comment upon and create media content.

As noted here in PBB, once upon a time, Bill Keller, editor of the New York Times, in one of a series of professional dismissals of bloggers, summed up their contribution to the information society with the following: “Bloggers recycle and chew on the news. That’s not bad. But it’s not enough.” [Read more…]

ConfederateYankee Get’s an “A+” For Investigative Journalism

I first talked about the blogger-driven battles over the Israel-Hezbullah war imagery in an essay for Editor & Publisher and then here and here in PolicyByBlog.

And the controversy continues–with a constructive object lesson for us all.

I don’t think blogs will replace big media, but the small blogger can, with moxie and smarts, shame the big boys and girls by doing the job that we trained the professionals to do in journalism school. Every good J-School teacher I know instructs her/his students to think, question and dig. Don’t just accept the press release about, easy answer for, herd response to or the face value of an event or issue. Scratch your head and ask: “Where can I go besides the usual sources to get the information that will better reveal the truth?”

Sometimes the answer is simple, and you think “Wow, why did nobody else think of that?” The answer is sadly that industrial journalism breeds laziness and routine. There are many hard working journalists out there; but the system undercuts their inventiveness and encourages them to walk the rut of what everybody else is doing; some still shine through, some fall down.

Not so with the nimble, one wo/man blog enterprise. Consider the case of Mr. Bob Owens, aka, ConfederateYankee, and his post on “Armored Vehicle Experts: Reuters News Vehicle Not Hit by Israeli Missile.” [Read more…]

Live from the Front Lines–The (Blogged) Words of War

Update: The Interview on podcast.

Another example of blogging morphing with other media:

The Press release from BlogTalkRadio:

Tuesday October 17, 2006 – On October 19th at 7 PM est., Scott Kesterson an embedded reporter with the US Army’s 41st Brigade in Afghanistan will be calling in live to BlogTalkRadio.com for a one on one interview with David Perlmutter.

This is Scott’s first live interview since being embedded at the beginning of March 2006. Scott will be discussing what is going on in Afghanistan behind the scenes and on the front lines. From his first hand experiences alongside our solders during battle armed with only a camera, to filming our troops training of the Afghanistan National Guard.

Interviewing Scott will be David D. Perlmutter; David is a professor and associate dean for graduate studies and research in the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications at the University of Kansas. He writes regularly for the Chronicle of Higher Education and has published over 130 opinion essays for U.S. and international newspapers. In addition, he is frequently interviewed by wire services, newspapers, magazines, and television media such as the New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, Reuters, UPI, the AP, and ABC News as well as featured in a number of documentaries .

How to tune into The Words of War. [Read more…]

Perils of Interactivity, Cont. (Obama MySpace)

I just finished my final draft of Blogwars: The New Political Battleground (Oxford University Press). As I have said, writing a book on blogs is like reporting NASCAR with stone tablets–so much happens so fast. One topic of current interest is the nature of interactivity: what are its benefits and drawbacks for politicians?

Of course, in the bloglands, you can’t pack the rooms with your supporters, shut out hecklers, and enforce message discipline. For example, candidate Barack Obama pioneered the use of MySpace as a campaign tool, but look at what happens when you open up the gates of interactivity to anyone, from kooks to your sworn enemies to supporters who embarrass you by their support. Among the July 2007 commenters on the Obama MySpace site, one “Namaste” from the hip-hop music producers at StreetLabStudio signed on to say, “Fallin’ thru ta show ya some luv and say wassup!! Have an Excellent, Blessed Day!! ‘lid…..never follow.” Fair enough, but does the accompanying video graphic of a nude woman jiggling her buttocks help or hurt the Senator from Illinois in his march to the White House? Then there’s the scary LostInQueens who signed on to assure the candidate, “you can count on my vote.” His graphic is a masked man pointing a gun at the viewer.

And MySpace sells ads: In one ad on Obama’s page, the conservative magazine Human Events offers readers a free report on “the real Barack Obama,” detailing issues from “his radical stance on abortion to his prominence in the corruption scandals that has been virtually ignored by the mainstream media” and asserts that “Barack Obama is not fit to be Senator — not to mention the next President of the United States.”

Do politicians need such interactvity?

–David D. Perlmutter

Originally posted August 2, 2007 at PolicyByBlog

BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2007 Presentations

This week I am presenting at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo, 2007 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas. I will moderate two panels. Created by blogger Rick Calvert, BW will be the first business expo to showcase blogging as well as the other interactive “new” media. The array of talents and sponsors is impressive.

The first panel , on Thursday, Nov. 8 will focus on “The Power of Political Blogosphere.” The scheduled panelists include: Hugh Hewitt, Pam Spaulding, Dave Nalle, Taylor Marsh, and Brad Friedman.

On Friday, Nov. 9, I will moderate “Political Blogs Vs. The Political Press” featuring John Hinderaker, Brad Freidman Mary Katharine Ham, and Taylor Marsh.

Here are the current drafts of my presentations.


Originally posted November 6, 2007 at PolicyByBlog

Dole Institute of Politics to host panel discussion on military blogs

Update! The progam video is now available.

Dole Institute to host panel discussion on military blogs

LAWRENCE — As a follow-up to a successful program in early 2007 on political Weblogs, the Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence, KS, will host a panel discussion about another dynamic and growing community on the Internet: military blogs (also known as “milblogs”).

Blogs from the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan have allowed readers at home to connect with soldiers, contractors and civilians who are serving their countries, and they have forced the Pentagon to rush headlong into this 21st century medium.

Milblogs began to appear shortly after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. They saw a dramatic increase in usage following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. According to Joshua Patterson, a KU graduate student studying journalism, Milblogging.com had indexed more than 1,800 military blogs in more than 30 countries as of Dec. 1, 2007.

“Milblogs and soldier blogs are often gripping and graphic firsthand accounts of the author’s life and experiences,” said Jonathan Earle, interim director of the Dole Institute. “This program will give our audience a window onto a new and fast-changing part of the so-called ‘new media.’ I can’t recall a similar program anywhere else in the country.”

The program will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 29, at the Dole Institute. It is free and open to the public.

Like last year’s “Blog to the Chief” program at the Dole Institute, this discussion will be moderated by David Perlmutter, associate dean of KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications and author of the books “Visions of War” and “Blogwars.” The panel will feature Charles J. “Jack” Holt, chief of New Media Operations for the Department of Defense, and leading military bloggers Ward Carroll, editor of Military.com; and John Donovan, lead blogger of Argghhh! The Home of Two of Jonah’s Military Guys. [Read more…]