Blogs: The Future of Politics? (notes)

Some notes from tonight’s event in New York on “Blogs: The Future of Politics?”

Moderator: Bryan Keefer is assistant managing editor of Columbia Journalism Review’s CampaignDesk. His other blogs: Spinsanity.org, bryankeefer.com

Speakers:
+ Daniel Radosh, freelance writer writes on pop culture and politics at Radosh.net;
+ Geraldine Sealey writes the War Room ’04 column for Salon.com, previously at ABC
+ Jeff Jarvis, President and CEO of Advance.net, primary blog is at
BuzzMachine.

Location: Steinhardt Building, 35 West 67th Street
Tue, Aug 10, 2004, 7:30pm-9:00pm

NOTES

Radosh: Started his site to let friends & family know about when he had an article appearing. Then he started using it as a venue to discuss ideas which didn’t fit into his journalistic assignment.

Sealey: she was hired to blog.

Jarvis: started blogging because of 9/11. He stayed around watching it happened. Was a block away from the south tower when it collapsed. He thought he would do it for a few weeks. Now, it’s “the most exciting thing I’ve done professionally”. He has developed new relationships with fellow media, “the people I used to call the audience but who really are all of us.”

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Keefer: what did the bloggers contribute to the convention?

Jarvis: The bloggers became the story because there was no story. The news was a commodity.

Radosh: bloggers started to do traditional journalism at the conference, but that’s not what bloggers usually do.

Jarvis: Jay Rosen did a good job analyzing what really went on. David Weinberger also good.

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Keefer: “When the NY Times picks up a cultural trend, it’s already getting stale.”

Sealey: blogs allow for faster reporting.

Jarvis: non-journalists and non-politicians are more exciting. “It’s like sitting in Denny’s and hearing what people are saying. That’s the value of blogs.” Paraphrasing Cluetrain Manifesto, “News is a conversation, and politics should be a conversation. Blogs are conversations.”

Radosh: Blogging is being egotistical enough to think that other people care about what we’re saying.

Sealey: a lot of what we write is in response to our Salon blog readers.

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Keefer: What is driving this trend towards blogs? Vanity, dissatisfaction with the media, obsession with plastic surgery of the stars?

Radosh: the ease of use. Only a tiny fraction of blogs turn into something bigger. And only a tiny fraction get noticed. And the people who notice are only a tiny fraction of the overall public.

Jarvis: Bloggers blog for several reasons. 1) Control (analogy to TV remote control). You can create & distribute media. 2) Establishes authority. 3) Conversation and community. 4) Because we can.

Radosh: someone told him “That’s the problem with the internet. Just because they can, everyone thinks that they can say whatever they want.”

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Keefer: In politics, the media are the gatekeeper.

Jarvis: There are assumptions made about the populace which are not necessarily true.

Radosh: blogs will have no impact on this election. People have been saying the internet has come of age since the early 1980s. They’re thinking that blogging is the next talk radio.

Jarvis: a candidate’s blog is not a real blog; it’s propagandistic. It cannot really be conversational. The message of the campaign had to be top down.

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Keefer: Are blogs forcing the political media to change? Can they improve journalism?

Jarvis: When columnist Howard Kurtz quotes blogs, that’s good. Ken Lane: “We fact check your a-s.” E.g., Dan Okrent at NY Times. Bloggers have forced corrections at NY Times, LA Times, etc.

Best improvement in journalism business is transparency.

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Keefer: cf. how cable impacted print media, pushing it to more of a confrontational mode. Cass Sunstein: “The internet is polarizing discourse. People can filter out information that disagrees with them.”

Jarvis: that’s a crock.

Radosh: RightWingNews.com recently asked some right-wing pundits which blogs they read. Several named sites that weren’t blogs. Almost none of them mentioned left-wing liberal blogs.

Jarvis: blogs link to what they disagree with! So even if you only read right wing blogs, you will be aware of what the original meme was.

Radosh: you can check it if you want to. I don’t read blogs to be a better citizen; I do it because I enjoy it.

Jarvis: Be wary of blog triumphalism. A better form of media in this way. We’re more reasonable people than folks give us credit for.

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Keefer: Will blogs replace journalism?

Jarvis: In an age when Daniel Pearl sacrificed his life, we should have some respect for journalism. Without journalism, blogs would have nothing to link to. The medium is complementary not competitive.

Radosh: journalists have a different code than bloggers, and that’s good.

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Keefer: Pew Foundation study found: 11% of Americans (14m) who use the internet read blogs.

Jarvis: that’s a big readership for such a new technology! Clay Shirky: “Fragmentation of media is a good thing; the most interesting blogs are in the elbow of the power curve.” 1.65m blogs are kept up in the last 6 months (according to Technorati). 15,000 new blogs/day. 450m links among the blogs. Blogs are already comparable to a big newspaper.

“Am I my neighbor’s blogger?” There is no digital divide in blogs; people are doing it in Iraq, Iran, etc. There’s no obligation for it to be representative.

Radosh: where are all the female bloggers? (and where all the female science fiction/Star Trek fans?) there just aren’t enough geeky girls.

Blogging reflects the larger world of opinion journalism.

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Keefer: there’s only one (sort-of) independent prominent female blogger, Wonkette

Jarvis: all the conversations are happening in the elbow of the curve. It’s the people who matter, and that’s what the media represents. It used to be all techbloggers, but it’s expanded beyond it.

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Keefer: are blogs liberal or conservative?

Jarvis: blogs will become video, photo, etc.

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Keefer: do people read angry on the web? Or maybe they write angry?

Jarvis: I told a person who was behaving badly: this is my house. Don’t sh-t on the carpet. There’s a reckoning. People know who you are , so there’s a reckoning, and behavior can be better.

Sealey: she was initially surprised by the volume and intensity of letters she got at Salon.

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Keefer: what’s the future of the personal blog?

Jarvis: publishing will become more common. Today, there are 200,000 blogs out of Iran, in Farsi. VP of Iran blogs. Chinese are blogging.

Sealey: reports will become more citizens. It tears down the wall between journalist and public.

Radosh: Blogs increase international communication, because it’s easier to read a foreign blog than to read a foreign newspaper. Paraphrase: It’s because you’re reading a person, not an institution.

Q&A from the audience:

Jarvis: There’s meat here that you can make a sausage with

Radosh: cooking blogs, knitting blogs have changed the way that recipes, knitting patterns, etc. disseminate.