Sunday, July 25, 2004

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Blogs are feeling the convention love

A while back I was ambivalent about bloggers covering the conventions. As the Dems converge in Boston, however, I must confess to a surprising giddiness about the role that blogs and bloggers have earned for this election season [You're just happy because this provides more fodder for your blog paper--ed. Hey, I'm rarely on top of a trend. Let me savor this!] Consider the following:

1) MSNBC's Hardball has set up their own weblog called HardBlogger. So far the posts have been mixed. In Andrea Mitchell's first post, she recounts her experiences at past conventions, concluding with, "the biggest 'get' of my last Democratic convention. Not former presidents, governors or senators, but Sarah Jessica Parker, on the convention floor." Now that's hard-hitting journalism!

On the other hand, this David Shuster post does contain some good inside info on what speakers see when they're at the podium.

2) Not to be outdone, CNN has teamed with Technorati to provide "real-time analysis of the political blogosphere," as David Sifry phrases it. Here's a link to CNN's press release.

3) MTV has also decided to co-opt the bloggers by hiring Ana Marie Cox -- a.k.a., Wonkette -- to cover the convention. MTV says "her 'unabashed style and irreverence' will galvanize young voters," according to the Washington Post's Reliable Sources. Cox posts her own thoughts on the matter here. Me, I'll have to tune in just to see whether Ana Marie can get through four days without saying "a**-f***ing" on basic cable.

4) Finally there are the credentialed convention bloggers themselves. Dave Winer has set up a special site for the DNC Convention Bloggers. The Los Angeles Times has a story on the bloggers who thought they got credentials but then had them yanked (link via Glenn Reynolds). Kevin Drum astutely observes about the article, "I think it's a milestone: a story related to blogging that's not about the phenomenon of blogging itself and that just assumes you know what a blog is."

The Democratic National Committee has set up their own blog called Boston Party. Even the old-school Associated Press has brought out legendary reporter Walter Mears to help blog the convention (link via Eric Schnure)

I'll close with Patrick Belton's proclamation at OxBlog:

The 2004 conventions will be remembered as the conventions of the blog; just like the 1952 Republican convention was the convention of the television, and the 1924 conventions were the conventions of the radio. Each symbolised the rise of a new technology to mediate between the political space of the public square and the personal, domestic space in people's living rooms, bedrooms, and kitchen counters.

That's probably a bit too triumphalist for me -- but then again, with the nets embracing the blogosphere for its form and content, even I'm feeling a bit triumphalist today.

[I notice you're not going to be Mr. Media Whore for the upcoming week. What does this mixture of political conventions and blogging mean for you?--ed. It is because of what the Lord did for ME when I came out of Egypt oh, sorry, wrong answer. First, notice that I'm getting quite the ad clientele -- MSNBC is just the latest. Second, I'll be making my own small contribution to The New Republic's convention coverage next week.]

UPDATE: Howard Kurtz has a round-up of convention bloggers in his Media Notes Extra column. And John McCormack talks about blogs forming a "para-media" in the Chicago Tribune. Kurtz reports this Oscar-the-Grouch quote:

University of Missouri journalism professor Tom McPhail told USA Today that bloggers "are certainly not committed to being objective. They thrive on rumor and innuendo" and "should be put in a different category, like 'pretend' journalists."

Blogs are not objective? Someone alert Daniel Okrent, stat!! And some convention blogger better score an interview with Sarah Jessica Parker -- it's the only way blogs will be taken seriously by the mediasphere!

posted by Dan on 07.25.04 at 11:39 AM


I apologize in advance for my cynicism. The bar exam is in two days, so I have an extra dose right now.

But, this all assumes that the political conventions matter, and that they're something more than Kabuki theater contrived for the consumption of the masses. I've been to a couple, and I'm not convinced that they are worth any blog coverage anymore, let alone major media coverage. It's one giant infomercial for each political party, and I'd rather have the resources devoted to covering these conventions spent on hard-hitting reporters who dig into the candidates' ideas and backgrounds to see what they're really made of.

Honestly, if there's any drama at all to these things, it will be because things did not go precisely as planned. If the President's speech runs 3 minutes long, or if Barack Obama bombs, then that will be a story. But if man doesn't bite dog -- if nothing out of the ordinary happens -- then these conventions will be nothing more than giant, splashy, alcohol-soaked, infomercials with little value added for the American consumer.

I laud my blogger colleagues, especially Patrick at Oxblog, for their idealism in covering these events. But c'mon... aren't we kidding ourselves here? Isn't there a real election to be covered that goes deeper than these conventions? Is anyone really going to vote based on what they see this week?

posted by: Phillip Carter on 07.25.04 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

Phillip, I have heard this cynical take on political conventions many, many, many times before. It is not only dull, more importantly, it is not true. Political conventions give the voters insight into the ways in which the political parties wish to be perceived. Note I did not say that it tells the voters about what the parties are, but rather the way in which they wish to be perceived. This desired perception tells the voters something about the parties. It is an additional piece of information for voters to consider in making their political choices.

I also believe that most voters understand that the modern political convention is a form of theater; they understand that the parties are putting on a show with the idea of getting the most possible votes in the autumn. My point is that the show that they put on gives the voters information about the party, not precisely what the party is, but rather what the party thinks will appeal to the voters. Knowing this desired appeal gives a person valuable, though somewhat indirect, information about the party.

Perhaps an example will help to explain my point better. If a guy tells me "American voters are a bunch of stupid, red neck sheeple who are easily manipulated and incapable of thinking for themselves," then, even thought the person has explicitly told me nothing about himself, I understand perfectly well that this guy is an arrogant jerk who is so full of himself that any argument would be useless. In a similar way, the theater of a poltical convention can say alot about the reality of a party.

posted by: Average Joe on 07.25.04 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

I just had a thought about blogs' effect today: what if they don't replace the regular press, but help shift its emphasis from surpassingly lousy punditry & process stories back to hard news, and from broadcast sources back to print?

It hasn't happened yet, but you can see why it would. We link to online versions of print newspapers, not Fox and CNN clips. And we're collectively pretty good at political commentary--better than almost anything on TV by a long shot as far as I'm concerned--but we're no so good at hard news reporting.

I'm not saying it's going to happen. It's just the first time the possibility occurred to me. And it would be a consumation devoutly to be wished.

posted by: Katherine on 07.25.04 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

My hope is that the blogosphere's love of policy debates will rub off more than its love of partisan point-scoring. I also hope that coverage of sweaters and haircuts is not long for this world.

The jury's still out on this one.

posted by: praktike on 07.25.04 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

Today's political conventions lack the drama normally expected a few decades ago. I simply cannot pretend to be a “good citizen” and force myself to watch them except for the major speeches by John Kerry and President Bush. Other than that, I prefer viewing reruns of Gilligan's Island or the Beverly Hillbillies. The latter may even be more culturally important and add significantly to my intellectual development.

I expect Senator Kerry's speech to be muddled and pointless. He simply cannot offer a clear message when there is so much disagreement within the Democrat Party. There is no way that one can reconcile the views of Robert Rubin, Richard Holbrooke---and those of Howard Dean and Al Sharpton. Somebody will have to be immediately marginalized if Kerry wins the election. Who is being played for a sucker? Now that’s the real question that should dominate this convention?

posted by: David Thomson on 07.25.04 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

Political conventions are a way the party and the candidate can get their messages and themes out to the voters on network tv in long, speech length chunks. Otherwise, all the average voter gets is soundbites and scare ads, and whatever snippets of policy Joe Reporter chooses to weave into his story.

So, no, conventions no longer matter as "hard news." But they are very important as the way to see the candidate, his party, his message without a reporter filtering the goings on every five minutes. To see the networks banish them to C-SPAN because no "hard news" is being made is a shame.

(As for blogs and the conventions? This just does not excite me very much,except as recognition. I'm afraid it's just ging to be a lot of "fisking", reports on parties, and Wonkette.

posted by: Appalled Moderate on 07.25.04 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

"[U]niversity of Missouri journalism
professor ..."

A University Professor unable to 'grok' a
new technology? Who would have thought that?

Aren't all University Professors, by definition,
revolutionaries on the cutting edge of their
respective fields?

It can't possibly be true that University
Professors are the most 'philosopically
conservative' individuals around?

... heavy Gore sigh inserted here ...

posted by: pragmatist on 07.25.04 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

All I wanted was $3000 and I would have covered it and, as a bonus, I would have tried to burn as many bridges between blogs and the mainstream media as possible. I checked out a few posts from the bloggers covering the convention and provided a few suggestions here.

posted by: The Lonewacko Blog on 07.25.04 at 11:39 AM [permalink]

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