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July 23, 2004

Weekend Update: Blogging the DNC

Wherein the author shows he can blog like a normal person-- again. I will update this post with stuff I find until my departure for Boston Sunday afternoon. So check back from time to time. (Newest entries on top.)

Rebecca Blood of Rebecca’s Pocket, who has written authoritatively on blogging, decided to volunteer at the convention instead of seeking bloggers credentials. But she has posted an extremely useful list of tips and strategies for bloggers, which I recommend. Among the highlights are:

And more. My favorite part is this:

It may turn out that the bloggers are completely in over their heads—but even if that turns out to be true, this will by no means have been a failure. If it takes the non-professionals 2 conventions (or 12) to figure out their most effective role, so what? Political parties and the media have been symbiotically working out their dance steps for decades. The only way weblogs can fail in covering the conventions is if they fall into the same dance themselves.

On the cusp: CNN in its online report about blogging: “Just as TV coverage of the presidential race gained its power with the televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960, Internet blogging seems to be coming into its own in 2004.” Markos of Daily Kos and Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit are quoted.

Talk to the Desk: As promised, although a little late, Campaign Desk, the Columbia Journalism Review product, has added a comment feature. Tom Lang and Brian Montopoli from the Desk will be reporting on the convention.

Keeping Watching on the Bloggers: The disinvited Hyperlincoln is nonetheless keeping a good updated list of speakers and invited bloggers: “dedicated to the best in blogging at the 2004 Democratic Convention… keeping you abreast of the best of the Convention blogging information as it comes in.” Also worth consulting is Feedster’s special convention aggregator. And of course there’s Technorati’s special convention page, which hasn’t started yet.

From the Ooze to the News: “Trash-mouthed, opinionated, relentless political bloggers are bound for both this week’s Democratic convention,” says Marlon Manuel in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: (July 23, reg. req.)

Political blogs have crawled from the Web’s primordial ooze, evolving into a mutant strain of journalism. In the freewheeling online world, bloggers often partisans can spin the news till they get vertigo, free from the clutches of (a) an editor and (b) the truth.

But at the Democratic National Convention starting Monday in Boston, bloggers won’t be crashing the party. They’re invited. They’ll breakfast with delegates in the morning and jostle with Dan Rather for news the rest of the day..

Got the Message? “During the convention, Kerry hopes to move beyond his Senate voting record to define himself as a husband, father, combat veteran, tough prosecutor, national security expert, outdoorsman and man of faith, according to a campaign message document.” Nedra Pickler, AP, July 23.

Note how that construction “define himself as…” splits the public in two: those who are reading the AP account and get the inside scoop on the Kerry machine’s self-definition plan, and those outside the scoop at whom the plan is aimed, who are supposed to conclude: “oh, so that’s who he is: husband, father, combat veteran….” The split public has become so routine in political reporting that I don’t think journalists even know they do it.

“He’s got to show that….” I was watching Washington Week Friday night, which this week was broadcast from the Institute of Politics at Harvard. Gwen Ifill, the host; Dan Balz of the Washington Post, Richard Berke of the New York Times and Susan Feeney of NPR, were giving a “convention preview.” Mostly what they meant by this is taking turns at answering the question: what does Kerry have to do at this convention to come out with a win?

I listened to each of them make their points, which basically meant naming some areas where polls showed soft support, and then turning that into something Kerry “has to do” at the convention. “He’s has to show that…” “He’s got to appeal to…” “He has to get over the hump with…” It’s a discourse anyone who follows politics will recognize.

Now if four political consultants were sitting around having a conversation about the upcoming convention, they would ask the same kind of question and give the same kind of answers, and cite the same kind of polls, and strike the same tone. To me there is something strange—and very screwed up— about that. And it was accompanied by a strange emotion: I was embarrassed for Harvard that it would host such a discussion, bring students to it, and call it “talking politics.” It isn’t politics. It is just technique.

Self-credentialed: Journalist and blogegr Adele M. Stan, who was invited and then disinvited, decided she is going to the convention anyway. Noting the 80 percent male roster of the credentialed group, she writes:

So, I’m heading to Boston with my iBook. From whence I’ll blog, who knows? You see, the great thing about blogging is, you don’t need no stinking badges. Whatever happens to you, wherever you wind up, whoever you meet, that’s what you write about. So, I’ll be writing the story that presents itself, as it happens. Stay tuned.

Global Dominance: The Boston Globe isn’t worried about expectations. Jon Friedman of CBS Marketwatch reports on editor Marty Baron’s plans to dominate the story:

Baron, in his characteristically understated and plain-speaking way, hungers for the delegates, journalists and hangers-on to leave town knowing that the Globe is a truly national paper.

“We want them to think that this is the paper they have to read — a reference point,” Baron said in a telephone interview earlier this week….

“With 15,000 journalists in town, we are on display,” conceded John Yemma, a 15-year veteran of the paper “We’ll bring our A-game,” said Yemma, the 51-year-old point editor for much of the Globe’s convention and political coverage.

Similarly, Baron shrugs off the pressure.

“Certainly these are papers with more resources — but not here. Nobody will have more resources than we will,” he said citing the more than 100 staffers who are working on the convention.

Losing the Expectations Game? Matt Stoller of BOP News, who is heroically volunteering with the DNC in the bloggers’ operation, says he is “getting deluged with calls and emails wanting to know about the Convention and what bloggers are going to be doing there.” It’s getting a little crazy, he says:

Bloggers know how to levitate. Bloggers can see through walls. Bloggers can talk to the unicorns that are observing and protecting humanity at all times, unseen. Bloggers are also invariably prone to spin, lies, rumor, and innuendo, hapless against the wily ways of campaign consultants and PR people. Bloggers are real journalists, unconstrained by the normal rules of fashion. Bloggers are not real journalists, but they look great in blue. All of them. Bloggers are editors plus sprinkles and whipped cream. All bloggers want is to be loved by the establishment. Bloggers hate you.

Matt points to Kos, who agrees: “I know the conventions are stage-managed snoozers and all, but really, the media hype over bloggers covering the convention is getting ridiculous.”

Given the number of reporters I’ve spoken to the last two weeks, expect a crush of stories over the next few days about bloggers at the convention. And really, it’s not that big of a deal….Now, it turns out that Technorati will be feeding blogger commentary to CNN. I suppose that means the pressure is up. And I have to admit that I’m getting nervous about the expectations game. We bloggers are losing it. We’re expected to turn a stage-managed four-day infomercial into compelling theater. That’s a tough assignment for anyone to fill.

Atrios is on the case too, but English has no punctuation mark for the opposite of an exclamation point!

Not sure how interesting it’ll be, really, to people who read blogs. For an event like this, the role of the mainstream press is mostly to serve as a filter for people who don’t really watch it themselves or who want someone to tell them what they’re supposed to think about the whole thing. While bloggers can potentially provide an alternative filter, in this case I’m not sure what additional value it provides….I suppose this is one of those “dimishing expectations” posts. I hope I can provide some exciting inside scoop coverage of the convention. I’m glad bloggers are invited, but given the fact that there will be 15,000 media people there, I find the presence of 35 odd bloggers to be not all that much of a story, at least before the event.

I’m getting concerned about this, too. I have mentioned the same ratio— 15,000:35—to every reporter I have talked to (lots of ‘em, to be truthful) but I have a feeling that, after this weekend, when a bunch of pieces are going to appear, everyone is going to be tired of hearing about those upstart bloggers.

Then we’ll see a round of news stories and weblog posts about the hype, and how ridiculous all that is. I’ve even mentioned this predictable cycle to reporters and they just laugh. But I won’t be able to claim innocence. Anyone who says, “just make sure they spell your name right,” doesn’t understand the perils of publicity.

Wanna Keep Up? Dave Winer has created a great resource at— a live list of latests posts by those blogging the convention. “It’s got the freshest posts from bloggers who will be on-site at the DNC next week, not just the credentialed bloggers, we include delegates with blogs.”

Journalist to DNC bloggers: I’ll be right there with ya. Tommy Stevenson, associate editor of the The Tuscaloosa News, sent me a preview of his column to run Sunday. It’s not online yet.

When I discovered that select bloggers will be covering the political party conventions this summer I silently cheered. Silently because there was no one around to hear me and I discovered the news online on, well, a blog site….

On my own personal favorites list I have more than 180 such blogs, divided roughly into six groups: leftwing, rightwing, Iraq, polls, story, and media and newspapers….

But if you think blogs are just vain exercises in self-expression, think again. Often stories that the conventional media has missed or played little attention to are forced into the mainstream from the blogosphere….

The decision to include these new media mavens in the press corps at the conventions has been met with resistance in some traditional press circles (“They’re not real journalists!”), but as for myself, once I get focused in on the convention I plan to be right there with them, television on and computer in lap.

Posted by Jay Rosen at July 23, 2004 6:50 PM