These bloggers an unimpressive bunch
It had to be meant for the faulty seated up front when Dr. David D. Perlmutter, professor of journalism and mass communication, pointed out that the people he was introducing weren’t “in pajamas or wearing pointy tin-foil hats.” The rest of the audience — a majority of KU students — had no such image of the five bloggers before them, or any blogger for that matter. The blogosphere, and with it the territories of MySpace and Facebook, are the realm of the young, fulfilling their need to speak about and beyond themselves to others like themselves…as every generation does.
Billed as “Blog to the Chief: The Impact of Political Blogs on the 2008 Election,” the Feb. 13 panel seemed a fitting presentation amid the right-of-center confines of the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. Any notion of fireworks between the right and left bloggers on the stage — two liberals, three conservatives — vanished quickly as Perlmutter tried to give weight to this techno-driven voice of expression still sorting out its relevancy in the political arena. As moderator before a sizable crowd, Perlmutter seemed well rehearsed in steering questions to “the country’s top political bloggers” as an earlier press release had described them.
Jerome Armstrong, of www.mydd.com, appeared to have the most seniority because of his work on the Howard Dean campaign and the political outreach it achieved via the Internet that put the former Vermont governor on the map and his presidential campaign in the money. Erick Erickson is managing editor of www.RedState.com, “the largest conservative community blog on the Internet.” Patrick Hynes, president of New Media Strategics, oversees www.anklebitingpundits.com. Attorney Scott Johnson, also a conservative, contributes to www.powerlineblog.com, Time Magazine’s 2004 blog of the year. Joan McCarter is a contributing editor at the Daily Kos (www.dailydos.com), considered a progressive political web site influential within top-level Democratic circles.
Various words like “adviser,” “operative” and “consultant” were scattered about in the Dole Institute program’s biographical characterization of the bloggers. Though some had written books or contributed columns or essays to traditional media outlets, the word “journalist” — whether intentional or not — was not used to describe any of the five.
Strangely enough, the bloggers, who relish their freedom and ability to instantly deliver “insight” to their audience, seemed thoroughly under Perlmutter’s control. And these bloggers, who rail against an agenda set by mainstream media and hunt for the foibles of established opinion makers, came across as hesitant and narrow in responding to Perlmutter’s efforts to solicit how the blogosphere would impact the upcoming presidential campaign. And even more bizarre since these bloggers influence with the written word, Perlmutter did not quote from any of the bloggers or offer to the audience (in the program would have been the perfect place) examples of what they may have written about the 2008 candidates or their presidential campaigns. Still, some things were revealed.
Red-stater Erickson said, “Blogs are more likely to harm rather than help” in a presidential run. McCarter cautioned candidates that blogs are not “a static medium they talk at (and) not an ATM” for campaigns.
All five glowed in their revelations that politicians are now taking them seriously, and that mainstream columnists attack them. Said Erickson in pinpointing a new media reality, “They can’t set the tone…have their Walter Conkrite moment.”
To which Hynes added, “That’s the meat of it. The media decides…that’s the unifying sentiment on both the left and right. They’re the old brokers of information and we’re going to take the steps to be actors because we’re regular people.”
Armstrong chimed in about “bloggers politically engaged all the time.” And when Perlmutter asked if bloggers were dividing the nation and lowering the standards of journalism, McCarter beamed about getting paid for her blogging and that blogging is becoming “professionalized.”
“We’re the new generation of punditry,” she spouted.
It was a kumbaya moment for the five.
Things got a little more interesting with questions from the audience. One questioner stated the obvious in noting that all five were white, and four were men. “What do you have to offer someone like me?” she asked.
In referencing the reality of political combat, a “rapid response” took hold. The questioner was reminded the Internet was free, that no one is stopping anyone from creating a blog. Then Hynes cut to the truth about blogging. Where mainstream journalism at least attempts to serve the community as a whole, blogging, said Hynes, “is about individuals.”
Maybe that’s why it’s become such a phenomenon. In the face of such helplessness in this supposed democracy — for example, when a majority wants an end to a war yet can’t exercise enough power to make it happen — something akin to “I blog therefore I am” offers comfort to an individual striving to have a say to how the world is run.
Yet, none of the bloggers thought this new media would supplant the old media. It would remain and grow as just another media layer with the other media layers of TV, radio and newspapers.
And finally when asked where did the bloggers see blogging going in the future, the political ideologies blatantly revealed themselves.
Howard Dean’s one-time “strategic advisor” Jerome Armstrong said it would mean “more of a movement on the local level.”
For Patrick Hynes, “blog consultant” for Sen. John McCain’s Straight Talk America PAC, once blogs became media companies, there would be a “buy out” and the founding blogger would make a lot of money.
Old media, new media…some viewpoints never change.
Bruce Rodgers can be contacted at publisher_editeKC@kcactive.com.
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