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Read about Jay Rosen's book, What Are Journalists For?

Excerpt from Chapter One of What Are Journalists For? "As Democracy Goes, So Goes the Press."

Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

"Web Users Open the Gates." My take on ten years of Internet journalism, at

Read: Q & As

Jay Rosen, interviewed about his work and ideas by journalist Richard Poynder

Achtung! Interview in German with a leading German newspaper about the future of newspapers and the Net.

Audio: Have a Listen

Listen to an audio interview with Jay Rosen conducted by journalist Christopher Lydon, October 2003. It's about the transformation of the journalism world by the Web.

Five years later, Chris Lydon interviews Jay Rosen again on "the transformation." (March 2008, 71 minutes.)

Interview with host Brooke Gladstone on NPR's "On the Media." (Dec. 2003) Listen here.

Presentation to the Berkman Center at Harvard University on open source journalism and NewAssignment.Net. Downloadable mp3, 70 minutes, with Q and A. Nov. 2006.

Video: Have A Look

Half hour video interview with Robert Mills of the American Microphone series. On blogging, journalism, NewAssignment.Net and distributed reporting.

Jay Rosen explains the Web's "ethic of the link" in this four-minute YouTube clip.

"The Web is people." Jay Rosen speaking on the origins of the World Wide Web. (2:38)

One hour video Q & A on why the press is "between business models" (June 2008)

Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

Dave Winer is the software wiz who wrote the program that created the modern weblog. He's also one of the best practicioners of the form. Scripting News is said to be the oldest living weblog. Read it over time and find out why it's one of the best.

If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

Dan Gillmor used to be the tech columnist and blogger for the San Jose Mercury News. He now heads a center for citizen media. This is his blog about it.

A former senior editor at Pantheon, Tom Englehardt solicits and edits commentary pieces that he publishes in blog form at TomDispatches. High-quality political writing and cultural analysis.

Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

PJ Net Today is written by Leonard Witt and colleagues. It's the weblog of the Public Journalisn Network (I am a founding member of that group) and it follows developments in citizen-centered journalism.

Here's Simon Waldman's blog. He's the Director of Digital Publishing for The Guardian in the UK, the world's most Web-savvy newspaper. What he says counts.

Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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July 26, 2004

For Party and Press, the Conventions Are A Memory Device: First Report From Boston

Conventions connect us backward in political time. But they especially give the two major parties a storied past. This has become more vital with the transformations of politics in the media age. Wthout this past the parties would seem even thinner and less substantial. But so too would political journalism. My first day's report....

BOSTON, July 26: My first report from the convention has been delayed by severe tech problems, the search for a work space, and the general chaos of things in and around the Fleet Center.

But this has given me time to reflect on what Rebecca Blood said in her advisory to those blogging the convention: decide what role you want to play. I am going to try to make sense of this event by accepting none of the given interpretations, which do not make sense to me unless we are prepared to declare the proceedings absurd and pointless. Some are. I’m not.

For example, there’s Walter Mears, who addressed the bloggers breakast this morning. Mears is the legendary Associated Press reporter who has been covering campaigns for 46 years, and this year is doing a convention blog for the AP, even though he told us—rather absurdly—that he doesn’t know what a blog is, or what he’s doing with one. I asked Mears during the breakfast Q & A how much responsibility he thought the news media had for the decline of the conventions, which he had described for us in the usual terms— not news, just a big show, nothing that’s unscripted, and so on.

His answer was “none.” Zero responsibility goes to the press. It was the parties that had drained the conventions of meaning, surprise and purpose. In that case, I replied, why are 15,000 media people gathered here to report on something so transparently dumb? “It’s a class reunion,” said Mears, a big social event for the news tribe. (Chuckles from the crowd.)

This I’ve heard before, of course, but it’s an absurdist’s view. It amounts to saying: we have no reason, we’re just here. Upon this event, editors and news executives spend many thousands of dollars from precious editorial budgets. Do they really sit around saying: “Who are we going to send to the big class reunion this year? Who’s ready to party in Boston?” That’s even more absurd.

At the other end of the transaction Rod O’Connor, CEO of the Convention (and what a title that is…) took the floor at the bloggers breakfast and described to us what an enormous undertaking it was to transform the Fleet Center into a “studio for television, radio and the Internet.” Structural steel had to be added to the arena to support the lighting for the huge stage, which features two podiums and a seating section behind the speakers to mimic the look of a studio audience— game show and Oprah style. He even called the convention “a live television show,” and he seemed to find pride in that.

But this too is absurd because on television’s harsh terms the show has been a big flop— losing most of the audience to other shows, and losing the major networks for all but a few hours over four nights. The convention lacks a host—like Billy Crystal at the Oscars—who can connect with the audience, and thread the show with character. It is undistinguished as entertainment, and weak on narrative: no beginning, middle and end, no rising and falling action. It has all the plot structure of a parade: one thing after after another until the big floats—the acceptance speeches—are rolled by.

So if the convention is just a television show, it’s gotta go in the category of “planned to fail.” There is no pride in that. And considering how much planning is involved—a theme Rod O’Connor stressed for us—this description is too absurd for me. For the Democrats clearly want their convention to succeed. They do have pride. They think politics matters. They put a lot into this. But not enough to defend it against the requirements of television. At the same time, they aren’t willing to join up completely with the TV regime, for if they were then CEO O‘Connor—a young, bright and telegenic guy—wouldn’t put on this kind of show.

For one thing, he’d have his Billy Crystal, I mean the political version of that guy. Ben Affleck, Al Franken, Bill Maher, and of course Jon Stewart— these are some of the obvious choices. (Who’s yours? Hit the comment button, name your host, and I will feed the best ones back into this post.) My own pick is Meryl Streep. But who does O’Connor have doing it? Bill Richardson? That’s not television logic. It’s politics making casting decisions. Who in the world thinks that would work?

Wally Mears said many things amusing and one thing I found instructive: the convention, he said, retains much of its ancient, pre-video form even though it long ago emptied out all the old, “live” content and replaced it with a script. You have the same four nights, the same basic order of events, and it is still called a nominating convention even though the nomination has been won.

Mears is on to something: the conventions are a memory device. They convey events in the present tense backward in political time. (As Mears himself does when he talks to bloggers.) But they especially give the two major parties a storied past.

This purpose has become more important with the transformations of politics by media, for without this past the parties would be creatures even thinner and less substantial than they already seem. They would just be money-raising machines, job banks, and incumbency guarantors. It would be a lot easier to imagine replacing them, too.

Journalists sense this about conventions— the way they point backward. That is why they are continually describing the event by reference to what it once was and is no longer. Listen to Elizabeth Wolfe of the AP two weeks ago: “Unlike elections past, when the political meetings would enjoy gavel-to-gavel coverage, the conventions have become heavily orchestrated events and rarely the place of newsmaking.”

Hear that? The conventions have become, not “the conventions are becoming.” It’s like the event has a giant backwards arrow over its head: permanently. I mean 28 years—the length of time since the last unscripted event, according to Mears—is a long time for one master narrative, yes? But so does press treatment have this back arrow overhead, for the truth is pollitical journalism needs a past, too, subliminal roots that connect it to the history of the republic, give it a serious purpose in politics, and keep it from vanishing into the thinness of broadcast air.

As with the parties, this weighting of journalism by the past has become become even more important in the television age, which cannot guarantee the seriousness of news amid all the happy talk, and commercial hype. I wouldn’t say they are necessarily aware of it, but what editors and news executives are doing when they send crews to the conventions is claiming some roots in the republic, attempting to give themselves and their work some historical weight. And that aim is not inherently absurd.

It also beats “Who are we going to send to the class reunion this year?” as an explanation for continued press interest in the event.

Pointing the arrow backwards is one purpose of ritual, and if the conventions can no longer be understood as news events, they still make some (limited) sense as rituals in American politics. By telling the candidate’s story, they give that candidate a past linked to party. Thus the emphasis on introducing Kerry’s life. Because conventions echo back to “you shall not crucify this nation on a cross of gold,” they help produce the party of Lincoln (and Reagan) on one side, the party of Roosevelt (and Kennedy) on the other. They visually advertise the parties as fifty-state creatures, and vivify a continental nation made of united states.

But this is mostly a property of their form; the old contents have been drained. New contents to fit the age have not been found.

The giant backwards arrow helps explain the treatment of bloggers in Boston. (I said “helps.”) Despite small numbers, they are clearly a story, and it was a strange feeling to be sipping coffee at the bloggers breakfast, while in the back of the room sat a crowd of 15-20 reporters “watching” us get the welcome treatment from DNC officials— including appearences by shooting star Howard Dean and rising star Barack Obama. (Obama, who is an unusually confident politician, suggsted he might need blogging tips. So I shouted out: “write it yourself.” He said he would do that when he found 10-12 hours free per day.)

Why are the bloggers of such interest here? Well, a superficial answer would be that they are one of the few “new and different” things happening in 2004; therefore they are news, or at least a nice sidebar. But I think there’s a different and deeper answer. Over their heads the arrow points forward.

Blogging represents—at least for purposes of the convention narrative—what things are becoming. “The conventions have become…” is a tired story line. And that is one reason we bloggers ate breakfast today under the curious gaze of the press.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go listen to Bill Clinton address the party of Roosevelt and Kennedy.

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links….

In the spirit of the gathering, I got permission to revise and extend my remarks. Thus: posted at 10:35 Monday night. Revised 2:35 am. If you can’t stay up late, why sleep over?

Live Blogging Experiment: The Ask. Since I am blogging the Democrats in the spirit of a friendly critic, and because I have many questions for him, I have asked if I can interview Convention CEO Rod O’Connor during the convention. The request went to Eric Schnure of the DNCC, our bloggers advocate. He said he would try and I should check back with him. I guess we’ll see what being credentialed means, but I hope Eric can get him, ansd I think he will. I plan to ask O’Connor about the ideas in this post, and then post the audio. So stay tuned for that.

UPDATE: here’s my audio interview with convention CEO Rod O’Connor.

The Revealer is a daily webzine that reviews religion and the press. (I’m the publisher, Jeff Sharlet is the editor.) See the ongoing campaign coverage forum, which asks the questiion: if religion reporters covered the presidential camopaign, what would be different? Contributions so far: Debra Mason’s “The ‘R’ Word”; Jason DeRose’s “Politics and the Religion Reporter: A Story”; Amy Sullivan’s “Religious Men”; Rod Dreher’s “The Non-Negotiable Dream”; Shahed Amanullah’s “Beyond the Zero-Sum Game.” My introductron is here.

Daniel Drezner:

Even though I’ve written about the ever-increasing connections between the blogosphere and mediasphere, I must also confess surprise at the intensity of coverage over the past few days. What’s going on?

Here’s a quick-and-dirty hypothesis — the media abhors a news vacuum, and a nominating conventions is one whopper of a news vacuum. There are no real surprises awaiting reporters in either Boston this week or New York come Labor Day. The only moderately interesting question this week is how well Edwards and Kerry deliver their speeches. Even that’s not news as much as interpretation.

This is a perfect scenario for the media to increase their coverage of blogs. They are an undeniably new facet of convention coverage, which makes them news. They’re a process story rather than a substance story, which the media likes to write about. Finally, one of the blogosphere’s comparative advantage is real-time snarky responses and interpretations of media events.

Majikthise (“Analytic philosophy and liberal politics”) make a shrewd observation. The journalist’s interest is in the credentialing of bloggers:

Extending press credentials to non-journalists is a bold move by mainstream political parties. Effectively, the subjects of news unilaterally expanded the media by extending access.

Journalists see themselves as professionals. Self-regulation is one of the distinctive features of a profession. Just as doctors reserve the right to decide who can practice medicine, many journalists feel entitled to decide who gets to make the news. Traditionally, press credentials have been earned by securing the approval of the press (i.e. getting hired by some acknowledged news source). This year, a handful of bloggers got the nod directly from the political parties.

Matt Stoller of BOP News on the convention calculus: “Protesters is lower than German TV is lower than domestic college newspapers is lower than bloggers is lower than mid-size print newspapers is lower than delegates is lower than B-list politicos is lower than cable is lower than networks is lower than A-list politicos is lower than Kerry.”

Jeff Jarvis turns the convention arrow around and points it forward. What does it look like then?

  • 1. Prove that you are the party that listens. “Hold sessions — not panels, not speeches, not lectures, not platform meetings, but sessions on the BloggerCon model — with experts and citizens (and politicians listening and not speaking unless spoken to.)”
  • 2. Open the convention to the citizens.
  • 3. Decentralize the convention.
  • 4. Harness citizens. “If you learned anything from Howard Dean, it should be that the people will move mountains for them if you involve them in the process. So all during convention week, hold MeetUps in Boston and across the country and call that the real convention of the real party.”

Jarvis has much more, so check into it.

A special thanks to Jessamyn Charity West, who is blogging the DNC at, for invaluable and cheerful assistance to a man in computer distress. She saved me.

Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy:

The three major broadcast TV networks are merely spinning lame excuses for why they will not be covering the national political conventions for more than a few hours this summer. It’s all “tightly scripted,” “it’s not interesting,” or there’s “no news,” they suggest. Meanwhile, the networks will show even less of the conventions than they did in 2000, continuing a sharp decline in coverage. Yet TV broadcasting will largely reap an unprecedented $1 billion or more from political ads sold this election season.

The Wall Street Journal has the convention bloggers introduce themselvees— nifty.

See PressThink’s earlier convention posts:

Posted by Jay Rosen at July 26, 2004 10:35 PM   Print


Jay, I think you've gotten a good handle on it with one caveat: if at sometime in the future, a party comes into its convention with the primary results well scattered among a number of individuals, then, I suggest, the convention will become important again. I think it would take a divided nation, similar to the divisiveness of the pre-War Between the States, to create such a situation, but I think it could happen. That might mean that the country is falling apart and the various candidates reflect regional considerations.

Posted by: Chuck Rightmire at July 26, 2004 11:01 PM | Permalink

I meant to add that without that divisiveness, the parties are using their conventions as insurance companies, sales firms, and mary kay managers use theirs: As a way to introduce products, such as a platform, and to stir up the faithful to go out and sell, sell, sell!

Posted by: Chuck Rightmire at July 26, 2004 11:03 PM | Permalink

Chuck, that's an interesting thought about how the primaries could, as precursor, impact the choreography of the convention.

However, didn't we see this year a choreographed primary season that, with foresight, guaranteed an early "presumptive" nominee and unanimity - either get behind him or re-elect our opponent?

So my question is, can such divisiveness occur if the spin masters exercise the same control over the primary season as they do the convention?

Posted by: Tim at July 26, 2004 11:22 PM | Permalink

Jay, as I've asked before, is there *really* 15,000 - FIFTEEN THOUSAND - journo's worth of news here? I'll paraphrase your quandary as saying "People couldn't really spend all the money and effort for nothing - so there must really be something".

But that assumes the conclusion.

The convention itself is not absurd or pointless - it's the equivalent of a concert or Big Game for political Deadheads/Boosters (nothing wrong with that, to each his own).

However, the 15,000-journo contingent *is* absurd and pointless. *150* could handle it, *1,500* is pushing it - but *15,000*???

If you want an answer as to "why?", I think it's in some complicated game-theory as to each editor making a calculation which would be OK in isolation, but *collectively* is ruin. Nobody wants to be the guy who stands up and says "The Emperor has no clothes", so they all file reports about the fashion parade.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at July 27, 2004 1:52 AM | Permalink

Lots of pithy posts at Oxblog:

"Now let's turn the question around: Are bloggers going to tell us anything interesting about the convention that we wouldn't read about in a newspaper or political magazine? I don't know. It's too early to say. But I'm curious."

"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."

"Writing before the Democratic convention of 1924, The Nation speculated the coming campaign would mark a faddish cycle of broadcast journalism, but by 1928 politics would surely abandon the radiowaves to return to more sensible, solider stuff. The New Republic, more optimistic, speculated that radio might instead last for a few more campaign cycles. Broadcast journalism was here to stay, and so is internet journalism today. Eighty years afterward, bloggers such as OxBlog are looking forward to the Convention of the Blog to unveil to a broader audience an exciting new medium for politics, and to use it to get around the televised spectacle which conventions have become, and give some light to the remnants of real politics which still exist there."

"The conventions of both parties, and resembling in this respect both chambers of Congress, have principally evolved since 1976 as spectacles oriented toward televised consumption. The symbiosis has been less than mutually beneficial to each of the two species, though, with television decreasing its coverage markedly since 1976, when gavel-to-gavel coverage ended for all networks with the exception of ABC (which had ended its four years before), and more so in each convention thereafter."

Posted by: Tim at July 27, 2004 2:09 AM | Permalink

Wonderful analysis, beautifully written, Jay.

The commenter questioning the number of journalists in attendance makes a good point. When conventions actually involved floor fights and disputes of delegation credentials and backroom brokered deals, just how many journalists were covering them (or - more meaningfully - what was the ratio of journalists on the beat to delegates).

I wonder if any of this dates to the Kennedy assassination, after which some journalists felt that they had missed "the story of their lifetime" and it appears that the entire news apparatus decided that anything the president does is news. If the next time W. falls of his bike he breaks his neck, can you afford not to have a correspondent on the scene in Crawford?

Perhaps that's not it, but I'd like to explore it further. The convention is about the presidency. I was in the same room (albeit a humongous room) with a president for the first time in my life tonight (two in fact) so perhaps what is being covered isn't a story so much as a locus of potential power?

Posted by: xian at July 27, 2004 2:54 AM | Permalink

Tim: Thanks for that stuff from Ox.

Seth: The number 15,000 has been reached in previous conventions and it is the expected number here. It includes news personnel, workers, which means journalists, producers, the tech guy at the Knight Ridder tent-- everyone sent, as I understand it.

I think you are right that you have to go to some kind of group reasoning that begins with individual calculations that are fatally about the group. The "what will they think of me if...?" logic is an example. But I think my explanation-- subliminal company kept with the past, and for good reason--makes sense too. I am happy to entertain other explications of the 15,000, since all we have are glib explanations now, like Wally's.

Chuck: I like the "sale force meeting." That's a good image.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at July 27, 2004 3:49 AM | Permalink

I thought Gov. Bill Richardson was the host (and chairman)? Are we replacing him? Already?

One of the problems I'm having with selecting a host is NOT giving the conventions the ambiance of an entertainment award show or Jerry Lewis Telethon.

Top of my head is Al Franken. Savier than Margeret Cho or Whoopi Goldberg, plugs Air America, entertaining without the goofishness of Billy Crystal (and would Robin Williams not show?) and is unlikely to overshadow the nominee and acceptance speech.

Given the choice between Richardson and Franken, I'd stay with Richardson. Hmmm ... imagine Bill Clinton as host. Never happen, but a four day love fest with Bill & Hill front and center managing the stage? Got to think about 2008, you know.

Posted by: Tim at July 27, 2004 4:04 AM | Permalink

Jay: Just wanted to say thank you for the thoughtful, well-written post on today's activities. I have read through a LOT of blogs today, and I can say yours is one of the best. I especially liked your idea of decentralizing the convention and opening it up more to citizens. Wouldn't it be great if the DNC set up live feeds and internet hook-ups all across the country? If you are able to interview Rod O'Connor, I hope you get some feedback from him on how the DNC would make the convention more accessible to everyday folk like me.

Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading more this week.

Posted by: CoolHandLuc at July 27, 2004 5:21 AM | Permalink

Demeaning bloggers: the NYTimes is running scared

"Blogging has terrified mainstream media for a while now. Jounalists want to know if blogs are going to degrade their profession, open up new possibilities or otherwise challenge their authority. This also means that whenever the press writes about blogs, one must critically consider what biases are embedded in their reporting."

Posted by: Tim at July 27, 2004 10:04 AM | Permalink

MC? Cameron Manheim, the actress. She was a speaker at the women's health march in April (1.1 million women, one-third of them under 25) in D.C., and she lit up the crowd like no other. Great presence, great voice, sharp woman with opinions. Remember real, gutsy, political opinions...before they got hounded out of us by the shouting white guys on Fox and their ilk?

Posted by: Suemac at July 27, 2004 10:41 AM | Permalink

Jay, thanks for an interesting analysis, as usual. I agree that "class reunion" is a very thin justification for press coverage, and political exigencies prevent good staging of gavel-to-gavel television shows. Inertia may be another explanation for the continued existence of conventions, and it may join with the herd instinct as an explanation for the continued media coverage, but neither really satisifies, and both are fairly depressing.

I like your "conventions as ritual" theory. There's certainly a sales meeting aspect to all of this brou-ha-ha, but the connection to the past created by the ritual is at least as important, and provides a better rationale for the coverage (note that CSPAN 2 is running past convention speeches against CSPAN's live coverage). Convention ritual (like ritual in general) isn't just a touchstone for institutional memory, it's also an expression of how this year's party and candidate fits in with that past (or doesn't, as the case may be). That's actually news.

How that news is covered is consistent with changes in how most news is covered lately. Coverage of the key political events of the presidential cycle grants the media some actual legitimacy as serving the public's civic interest, but the media collude with the parties in scripting the event. Instead of gavel-to-gavel coverage, the networks are using the speeches as hooks for process stories and grist for the punditry mill. That's cheaper than covering platform committee meetings or delegates whose role has largely been reduced to that of scenery, and it makes tighter, more manageable stories (particularly important for TV).

I submit that if this convention is remembered for the introduction of bloggers after the novelty has worn off, it will be because the bloggers have found a way to provide a counterpoint to the script. Even if the stories you all generate don't reach wide circulation through the blogs themselves, you may provide an army of underpaid footsoldiers to provide different grist for the majors' coverage.

Posted by: John B at July 27, 2004 11:30 AM | Permalink

..."the same four nights, .. "

It took 17 days in 1924 for the Democrats to come up with John W. Davis--as a guy to take the fall against Calvin Coolidge.

The basic problem is the notion that the people should pick the candidate, via state primary elections and caucuses. Who better can pick a winning candidate, those who fight the elections every year, the foot soldiers who fight in the trenches day after day, or an agglomeration of Joe Sixpacks who bestir themselves once every four years to pull the handle?

The smoke filled room worked better, if you ask me. They provided better candidates and better Presidents.

Posted by: Larry Hughes at July 27, 2004 12:07 PM | Permalink

Jay: What I tend to try to ask, is which explanation(s) are true, and how can we find out? Yes, there can be complexity, multiples, etc. etc. - but philosophically, I believe there generally is a truth compared to not-a-truth. Maybe this makes me an ill-fit for punditry :-)

In science, there are a lot of things which sound appealing, but aren't true, and true things which are often emotionally unsatifying. And sometimes we just don't know.

But granted, I haven't come up with a way of testing explanations for critical journo-mass.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at July 27, 2004 1:02 PM | Permalink

I think if we go into the history of smoke-filled rooms, we find the selection of presidents of equally poor stature as much as we do good ones. Harding, Grant, Hays, Taylor, maybe Taft, come to mind. Jay's analysis of the historicity of the the conventions is right on, as we used to say. But last night I was on the Daily KOS website to see what was happening and while the response was limited, 361+ comments many of them from the same people, the spirit was also soaring with them. I think we are looking at history here, as mentioned above. There may be more of a bounce that's unmeasurable in the blogs than in what is read or heard in the mainstream media. I also suggest that as the future unfolds we will see the mainstream media become more like the blogs (unfortunately, perhaps more like the Drudge Report).

Posted by: Chuck Rightmire at July 27, 2004 1:46 PM | Permalink

The conventions need a host. My pick for the Democrats is an elder statesman-type person, Walter Cronkite. For the Republicans, the Abe Lincoln hologram from Disneyland. Oh, wait. Am I showing my bias?

Posted by: Richard Hausman at July 27, 2004 2:01 PM | Permalink

Bob Hope's still available, right?

Posted by: praktike at July 27, 2004 2:13 PM | Permalink

How about that Clinton Speech last night! "Send Me!" Have you seen his new website?

Posted by: Ben at July 27, 2004 2:38 PM | Permalink

The upcoming Iraqi National Conference -- "But this conference should be fun to cover. It will be like an old-fashioned presidential convention, complete with smoke-filled back-rooms and arm-twisting. Expect a fair amount of political skullduggery and coalition building. Groups such as the Islamic Dawa Party (Hizb’dawa), SCIRI and the Iraqi Islamic Party can be expected to make a religious coalition while the KDP, PUK and INC will be a secular bloc. Further complicating matters is interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi’s party, the Iraqi National Accord, which has a long rivalry with the INC. Look for some fireworks between those groups as Chalabi’s minions — assuming they show up — try to undermine the INA and weaken Allawi before the parliament ever convenes. Anything to make Allawi look ineffectual strengthens potential challengers’ hands for the elections in January — and you know who (*cough* Chalabi cough, cough) will definitely be looking to fill Allawi’s chair next year."

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