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…]

Blogs and Endorsements

The Directors of RedState.com, the independent Republican-oriented political group blog, recently offered a formal endorsement of a candidate for the upcoming House Republican leadership race. They have made endorsements of other kinds in the past.

Newspapers, and to a lesser extent magazines and television news programs, have for a long time formally endorsed candidates for office. Bloggers have also been openly pro-Dean or pro-Bush or pro-Clark, etc., but the formal endorsement is another sign of many bloggers professionalizing their style and content.

Incidentally, there is a large but now aging body of research in mass communication studies on the “impact” of newspaper endorsements on voter attitudes and behaviors. Generally, the findings of such research are: (a) newspaper endorsements of candidates can have some influence on some voters; (b) fewer readers actually read newspaper editorials nowadays; (c) newspaper endorsements are more likely to influence campaigns than voters, in that the campaign will use major endorsements in their advertising and especially employ choice quotes in their own favor; and (d) other sources of endorsement, such as personal friends and family, have more influence on how we vote. [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…]

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…]

Are Blogs the New Iowa? (Redux…)

I have speculated here before on the new dimensions of political blogging. Most recent is a longer essay just published by the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is behind a paywall, so I reprint it here (with a few editorial revisions!):

And thanks to “doorguy” at Daily Kos for the publicity.

Political Blogs: the New Iowa? (Chronicle of Higher Education, May 26, p. B6)

Like many political junkies, I get my news and opinion fixes from newspapers, television, and specialty newsletters. But I also rely increasingly on blogs, the Web pages that contain both interactive, hyperlinked reportage and commentary. Such information sources are no longer curiosities. For example, Daily Kos (http://www.dailykos.com) — started by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, who served in the U.S. Army before going to college and law school — includes contributions from a giant group of leftist, liberal, and Democratic bloggers. The Nielsen//NetRatings service reported that in the single month of July 2005, Kos attracted 4.8 million separate visitors. The Kos audience is thus greater than the combined populations of Iowa, where the first presidential caucus takes place, and New Hampshire, site of the first primary, according to the current Democratic party schedule.

It is no surprise, then, that political scientists and scholars of communication from many disciplines are asking what role blogs will play in future campaigns and elections and, more specifically, how bloggers will affect the election of our next commander in chief. [Read more…]

Interview with William Beutler (BLOGOMETER, BLOGPI)

Early this summer Shearon Roberts, one of my Masters Students, working for the Wall Street Journal conducted a series of interviews with interesting and innovative political bloggers. Among her first talks was with William Beutler, then a Senior Writer with the blogometer column in The Hotline (of the National Journal). He now (August 2006) produces BlogPI as a blog analyst for New Media Strategies, a PR firm based in Alexandria, Virginia.

Beutler: At The Hotline, I write…the blogometer. That section of the main publication is also published on the Web right after The Hotline…as a Web column basically. And that Web column, the blogometer, I spend 6 hours a day reading probably 150 blogs. And I screen them trying to find the interesting conversations and the things people are saying that are affecting politics and things that are affecting bills that are on the hill.

It’s a powerful tool. If you could read 100 blogs a day and you’re interested in politics and you don’t have time to visit other websites, read the blogometer and you will know what is happening in politics today basically. [Read more…]

THE GREAT BLOG & FAUXTOGRAPHY DEBATE CONTINUES

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…

E&P EDITOR DEFENDS WAR PHOTOGRAPHY

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.

BLOGS AND THE MYSTERIOUS AMBULANCE INCIDENT

“Zombie” of zombietime.com has published “THE RED CROSS AMBULANCE INCIDENT: HOW THE MEDIA LEGITIMIZED AN ANTI-ISRAEL HOAX AND CHANGED THE COURSE OF A WAR.”

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…]

Interview with polblogger Tony Trupiano (Democratic candidate for Congress)

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. She talked to Tony Trupiano (Democratic candidate for Congress in Michigan’s 11th district) who blogs at: http://www.tony4congress2006.com/blogs/

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

The blog is one of the few things that I am 98% present in. I do my own blogging, I do read the blog. I think it’s a great communication too. I think it is an opportunity…you give people access…not so much to the candidate but to the process. I find blogging to be almost therapeutic at times. And it’s a great communications tool.

How frequently is the blog updated?

At least once a week. I mean if I had time, I’d love to do it everyday. And I’ve kind of kind of fought this idea that somebody else can blog for me. For me that takes away from authenticity. So once a week, twice a week, sometimes more but I try to blog about something at least once a week.

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

Depending on the topic really depends on the tone (of writing). Not too long ago we had a major automotive plant close in my area and so that was much more personal. If I’m blogging about policy, obviously that’s going to be a bit more academic. So it’s the whole spectrum, it’s not just one style. [Read more…]

Political Blogs: Netroots Groundswell or Garage Bands?

In the middle of a dozen or so articles assessing the explosion of political blogs into mainstream culture, there was one story that begged to differ. “Netroots Hit Their Limits” (predictably) emerged from the stodgy and stalwart publication, Time Magazine. In it, Perry Bacon, Jr. describes “Netroots” and the concomitant rise of political blogs as “the Democratic Party’s equivalent of a punk garage band–edgy, loud and antiauthoritarian.”

Bacon makes an interesting note. While most would agree that the political pendulum is beginning its swing back to the left, he states “moderate Democrats say it with remorse, conservatives with glee, but the conventional wisdom is bipartisan: progressive bloggers are pushing the Democratic Party so far to the left that it will have no chance of capturing the presidency in 2008.”

He generates some statistical data that deserves stricter scrutiny. Bacon claims that “a coarse estimate of the Netroots’ numbers shows them to be something less than a groundswell. The readership of the largest liberal blogs and the membership of MoveOn suggest that the Netroots could total 6 million people, and that assumes blog audiences don’t overlap, which they do.” While it is possible and even probable that blog audiences overlap, what Bacon fails to mention is the possibility and probability that a certain percentage of those 6 million people will disseminate information from the blogs in other arenas and formats as well. [Read more…]