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


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 How many of you conservatives frequent

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…]

Do Bloggers Wear Political Blinders?


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, 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, and [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…]

Interview with Ken Spain [Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas)]

Shearon Roberts, an LSU Masters Student, working for the Wall Street Journal conducted a series of interviews with interesting and innovative political bloggers. In November 2005 she talked to Ken Spain [Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas)]

How involved is Mr. Conaway in operating the blog,,making posts and reading comments?

We assign a staffer to maintain the blog on a daily basis, the Congressman is very active in his posts, however, all the posts do not come from the Congressman, some come from staffers. The Congressman usually blogs once or twice a week usually on an issue that is important to him, an issue that the staff may point out that has a relevance for that day or time, we would usually try and get the Congressman to blog on that issue…if he does not point out what he would like to blog about.

He will sign off at the bottom of his blog entry as Mike. The other staffers will [sign in as themselves] for instance if the Congressman is heading into a budget meeting that day, our legislative assistant will blog and say this is what the Congressman is doing today, this is his take on the issue and then she will sign off as so and so staffer/legislative assistant for budget issues for Congressman Mike Conaway. [Read more…]

Interview with Polblogger Aaron Pena (D-Texas)

Shearon Roberts, an LSU Masters Student working for the Wall Street Journal conducted a series of interviews with interesting and innovative political bloggers as a project for a class I taught. In January of 2005 she talked to State Representative Aaron Pena, (D-Texas) of District 40 in South Texas. He blogs at

How involved are you in operating the blog, making posts and reading comments?

100% of it is my personal involvement. I started doing this in I think January of 2005. It’s become not only a way for me to communicate with constituents but a hobby. I’ve come to enjoy the banter between myself and other bloggers not only in Texas but from around the globe.

How frequently is the blog updated?

Three or four times a day.

How is the blog designed, is it a true blog–a strict daily diary for the politician, or a mix of website features and posts? What is the writing style or tone of the blog?

It’s personal, it’s conversational. Well I just got off the floor of the House and we just voted on a bill. So I explain the vote, what it was on, and the mechanics of it going on to the governor’s desk. But this is just an example of a factual, informational kind of post. It’s written from a first person position and very conversational. Sometimes it’s as personal as (sigh), philosophical feelings about death or my outings with my family. [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…]

A Silent Blogging Majority?

This past week, “Vox” was released: it is new software for blogs designed to draw an even greater number of people to the medium. Now instead of the author’s thoughts being catapulted into cyberspace for anyone to see, a greater number of security features are offered for the more cautious (or self-conscious) author. Vox allows the author to control access to each post, in addition to determining who may read or add comments.

The idea is to bridge the divide between the blog and other forms of communication like instant messaging or emails, where there are intended recipients of the message. The hope is to generate some sense of security for bloggers who are concerned that their thoughts on an issue may not be suitable for a larger audience.

While privacy concerns for authors in the United States are certainly understandable, in other nations it can become an issue of much greater import. Over the past few months, China has created a bit of an online stir with its long-term detention of “subversives” attempting to harness the power of the blog. In all, nearly 85 bloggers from China are either in custody or in jail, serving average sentences of 3-5 years for expressing views contrary to the interests of the government. [Read more…]

Perlmutter Profiled in Lawrence Journal World

I was profiled for my blogging research and experience in the Lawrence Journal World. By the way, I have to say, if there is a Daily Show effect, I am living proof. It is truly amazing how much attention I have gotten from a few minutes of television. Thanks, Mr. Stewart (and Rob Riggle who introduced me)!

Originally posted August 18, 2008 at PolicyByBlog

Perlmutter Interviewed by BlogTalkRadio

PbB editor David Perlmutter was interviewed by John Ciampa for his Bloggerschool Podcast on BlogTalkRadio (Saturday 09.06.08) and later (Weds., 09.10.08) for BlogtalkRadio’s Alan Levy Show by Hilary Leewong & Shaun Daily.

The topics: Perlmutter’s book BLOGWARS and the upcoming CITIZEN JOURNALISM WORKSHOP I helped create at BLOGWORLD & NEW MEDIA EXPO 2008, Sept. 19, 2008 – 10:00AM – 4:45PM (Las Vegas Convention Ctr.)

Originally posted September 13, 2008 at PolicyByBlog

Perlmutter Speech at the Society for Scholarly Publishing

David Perlmutter gave the Keynote Speech at the Society for Scholarly Publishing Top Management Roundtable Conference, Philadelphia, PA, September 4. The topic: ” How Blogging Is Changing Our World: The Lessons from Politics.

Some links:

Originally posted September 16, 2008 at PolicyByBlog