Bloggers as Local Content Creators

As I noted in another post, Bill Keller, editor of the New York Times, characterized blogging by the following: “Bloggers recycle and chew on the news. That’s not bad. But it’s not enough.” Just today, (“Reliable Sources“, 01/01/06) Howard Kurtz, in the midst of a discussion about the decline in newspaper circulation, commented (with a smile) that bloggers, as you know, have a grand old time kicking around the MSM, the mainstream media, but if newspapers went away tomorrow, where would they get their information? In both cases, they meant that bloggers just “chew” and “talk” about big news items in big media venues.

This is obsolete analysis at several levels. It is based, partly, on vanity–the “mirror effect”: big time national journalists only read blog posts that are about them, and assume that all blogging is reflective of (and reflexively aimed at) them!

Let me offer one example here–I elaborate on dozens more in my book BLOGWARS–of bloggers who are creating original content at the local level. [Read more…]

What Should Hillary Call Her Blog?–“SECURITY MOM DIARIES…”

Blogging is supposed to be a natural effusion of thought and emotion: modern politics is all about control, staying “on message,” getting out your sound and visbytes, and reducing risks of gaffes. Hence the attractions of real blogging are low for frontrunner candidates like Hillary Clinton. And, well, PolicyByblog is a non-partisan blog but I don’t think I’m stepping too far out of line to agree with those that characterize Senator Clinton’s personal style as not naturally intimate and emotive.

Still…one can imagine she could blog in bursts–very controlled bursts!

In perspective, the first-person quality of a politician’s blog is enhanced when they speak to us from interesting, even exotic, situations. Patrick J. Leahy, the Vermont democrat, blogs in “real time” from the floor of the Senate. “More from the Floor” updates up to several times a day. During Ronald Reagan’s funeral, Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) stood inside the national cathedral and typed directly into his Blackberry for the following blog entry:

“My wife and I stand amidst the most powerful people in the world….We have stood beside presidents and princes, prime ministers and leaders of every stripe but that is not what moved us these past two hours. There was the undeniable presence of the Spirit of the Lord in this place and it was a sweet presence…[when] the casket swept by to our right, and tears filled my eyes.” [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…]

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…]

Google Video and Politics

By now I’m sure most people who are online have discovered Google Video.

I know I have watched the following dozens of times:

“Funny EDS Commercial – Cat Herding”

Ghostly Car Ad… Do you believe in ghost????

jana gana mana……National Song of India

Octopus Eats Shark

Lipa Shmeltzer – Abi Meleibt!

Blonde antelope

Is this Deja Vu–and I do mean “vu” as in view– all over again?

In July 1999 the Pitas company started distributing software tools to build personal Web sites or “blogs.” A month later Pyra Labs (now owned by google) released the program Blogger to the public which made blogs user-friendly, generally accessible, and particularly personal, as bloggers could name the sites themselves (and after themselves). Bloggers started reaching out–finding other bloggers–to attack or to ally with or just to reference or seek help from. It was accumulative knowledge building about technology, from how to type html to what to blog about. In other words, what made blogs was not just personalization but affiliations–the voluntary associations of the democratic experiment. Many additional programs, like Typepad, MovableType, Squarespace, and others simplified the blogging experience even further, helping the phenomenon to become ubiquitous. [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…]

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

UPDATED

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…]

Political Blogs as “Public Domain” Speechwriters?

One of the strangest adjustments for those of us who have written mostly for publication in print venues is the different nature of “publishing” on the Web. The ethics of revising something that you find out is mistaken, want to reword or to take back is complicated. And with Google’s cache feature you can’t ever really, fully delete your “drafts.”

But to what extent are words printed in political blogs owned by anyone? I am very traditional in the belief that these words, written by me, are copyrighted by me (see notice at the bottom of this page). I would think that most bloggers would feel the same way, i.e., “Don’t quote me unless you cite me.”

But in the world of politics, this can become an intricate and ambiguous question. Case in point: A few months ago, Representative Sherrod Brown of Ohio (D-13th Dist.) wrote a letter to Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) concerning the nomination to the Supreme Court of Samuel Alito, and specifically enumerating what Brown represented as Alito’s poor record on labor issues and workers’ rights. Apparently, almost the entire letter was what in traditional publishing would be called plagiarized–that is, it was originally either the ideas or the actual words of a political blogger, Nathan Newman, of nathannewman.org. The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper revealed the “plagiarism” after officials from DeWine’s office alerted them. [Read more…]

Who are Bloggers? Who Do Bloggers Represent?

UPDATED: It is normal now, when a big news story breaks, that anchors will “go to the blogs,” inviting bloggers on-air for comment, or taking some sort of “pulse of the blogs.” In some ways, thus, blogs have taken the place of the “man-on-the-street-reacting-to-news-story” interview typically employed by television journalism. But what do we know about who blogs? Are bloggers the “people”?

This is a complicated question but one that many politicians and journalists are asking.

I will discuss the subject at length in my book, but see my short essay, (“Are Bloggers ‘The People’?”) in the “DOCUMENTS” section of the blog (left sidebar).

Main points and tendencies (not universalities) of the blogger profile:

1. Bloggers are not a statistical, representative, scientific cross-section of America–or the world. (Note: So it is wrong for journalists to say “let’s go to the blog to hear what the people are saying.” Rather go to the blogs to hear what bloggers are saying–but that might be pretty important. [Read more…]

BLOGWARS (The Book) Inches Closer to Publication!

This website began as an extension of a book–BLOGWARS–that I am writing about political blogs. But blogs are forever unfinished, their work always to be continued, revised, and extended later. Describing political blogging in a book that takes a year (and now much more!) to research and write and another to publish is like giving NASCAR commentary via stone tablets. Snapshots of the big picture of blogs will be dated by the time you read the book. But that is the point: A blogger’s work is never done, nor, I hope, is that of a student of blogs. You post an item but you cannot then triumphantly declare your mission completed as you could with a printed book or an academic journal article. Your blog readership, if you have one, expects you to return again and again to old issues or to move on to new ones. You cannot coast or rest on your laurels; your readers will abandon you or, worse, ask why you are failing them. That implied ellipsis at the end of every essay or post in a blog, of course, is one of the crucial features of blogstyle and content that make it often a joint enterprise rather than a monologue.

That said, BLOGWARS is now up on the Oxford website and is scheduled for April 2007 release! No one who has not written a book can understand the romance of seeing your ISBN for the first time:

ISBN13: 9780195305579

ISBN10: 0195305574 hardback, 256 pages

The moderate price, $20.00, reflects that it is being pubbed by the trade division of Oxford.  It would have been $90.00 if it was classified as an “academic” text–but then it would have been a different book. [Read more…]