July 28, 2004

Bloggers' Breakfast

Much has probably been blogged about the welcoming breakfast the DNCC threw for us Monday. But what the heck. From an outside perspective (and there were around as many press as bloggers, so there were plenty of outside perspectives), it was probably interesting to compare the cheerful clapping for Barack Obama, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and newly minted AP blogger Walter Mears, and fellow Kerry veteran Del Sandusky with the standing ovation for Howard Dean.

Barack Obama described blogging as generating a "new capacity for ordinary people to get involved and get engaged." He said that it would be a way to bring more young people into the process, and said that if we had any suggestions for his own blog, to send them over. Immediately, he got back two responses, namely: "Link to us," and "write yourself."

I wonder if any of the press corps caught the looks we were giving each other when Mears described AP coverage as "fiercely objective" (nothing against Mears, but where'd they find Nedra Pickler?), though he had a lot to say that was interesting, and one blogger even asked his advice on covering conventions. Mears had kind words for blogging, saying that, "In a sense, [you are] the pamphleteers of a new age." An old style political tradition from which some of America's most famous writing came. Mears' advice for bloggers? Cover the state caucuses and smaller events which are more unpredictable. Of the conventions themselves, he said they were a "great class reunion, [and a] hell of a party."

When Dean came up, he said he felt somewhat responsible for us being there, and it seemed there would have been little disagreement about that from the assembled bloggers. Dean said that even though the format used by his campaign had been duplicated, many politicians didn't seem to get that blogging was about community building and two-way communication.

Dean said that 50% of people under 25 got their news from the Internet and the Daily Show, and that under the weight of new expectations, the media would also have to change. His comment about one of the common questions we've been asked: "If I were you, I would not be insulted if no one wants to call you real journalists." He said that Rupert Murdoch style journalism had injected opinion and enternainment right into what was once the real news section, with front page journalism being suffused with unsourced, unsupported assumptions.

On campaign finance, Dean said that bringing lots of small donors into the process was real campaign finance reform. He said that while he was running, it empowered him to speak more freely on behalf of his supporters without worrying about offending donor interests. He said that it was also empowering to contributors, making them feel that they could make a difference, even when they could only give a little.

After the event, I turned the table on a handful of the reporters there and interviewed them. I asked why they were covering us, and whether blogs were actually influential or just a fun story.

Kristin D'Oliveira of the Boston Globe special convention insert, Media Nation picked the just a fun story option.

The BBC's Kevin Anderson said that he worked for the BBC's online news service, and would be blogging the event himself. He said they've been looking for ways to reach out and get people involved in the news through the web, with online events like a webcast of a Dalai Lama event. He said that blogging is starting to realize the promise of the internet and personal publishing.

Drew Clark of the National Journal's Tech Daily said that he was covering bloggers because they cover anything dealing with technology and policy. He said that bloggers have been influencing things by being out front with things like the INDUCE Act sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). To some extent, he said that blogs have influence because the press reads them.

Stephanie Schorow of the Boston Herald said that she had suggested covering the breakfast, having covered blogs for a while. She said it's a fascinating insight into what different people around the country are thinking. She said that bloggers write with passion, aren't objective, and don't pretend to be objective, and that "therefore, in a strange way, you can trust them" because you know where they're coming from.

On the influence of blogging, Schorow said that yes, she thought they would be influential. But also that it their eventual effect would be "surprising." She said that it was also a fun story though. She said she enjoyed the self-deprecating humor of blogs, the wit (thanks! unless she meant to add a half- to that ;), and described them as "anti-talking head." She said that it would be dangerous to make either too much or too little of blogging, or of oversimplifying it.

Something Schorow thought was interesting about blogging was the willingness to link to opposing viewpoints, even on sites like Drudge. She said that "at the Herald, we generally don't mention the Globe unless we're poking fun at the competition." Though she said she likes the competition with the rival Boston Globe, it was unusual for members of the press to see someone link to other news outlets.

When I asked her if she thought objectivity was really possible, she said that the problem with it was that "it celebrates conventional wisdom, and conventional wisdom can be very wrong." She described watching attitudes change about domestic violence, remembering one case in the 70's where the pressroom was getting ready to cover what they first thought was a major story about a shooting. Until they found out that it was "just a domestic violence event" where a man had shot his wife, and proceeded to mostly ignore it. (Over the years, attitudes have clearly changed.) She said that the idea of what was objective was very subtle, and said that the media struggled with the question of whether it was their job to question everything, especially in the event of a war.

Posted by nat in boston at July 28, 2004 01:29 AM | Elections | Technorati links |


We didn't meet, but I was shooting for kristen. nice work; there's a picture of you up on my phlog:http://www.livejournal.com/~abreedapart


Posted by: Carl Brooks at July 28, 2004 02:29 AM

natasha, this is the best writeup of the blogger's breakfast i've seen so far. you asked some good questions! keep up the excellent posts.

Posted by: anna at July 28, 2004 04:46 AM

It's nice to see that Mears and Schorow "get it". Bill Moyers has also made the connection to the pamphleteers.

Historically the attempt at "fair and balanced" is a post-WWII concept that arose with the electronic media and the FCC oversight. The newspapers began to tag along with the concept, especially after they began to consolidate.

Ms. Schorow is also correct that if you understand the bias of the source you can still derive information from it.

Nice work, BTW.

Posted by: Bryan at July 28, 2004 05:52 AM

Great post, natasha! And I loved the interviews you did in conjunction with Dave Winer of Scripting News. I swear you have the makings of another Seymour Hersh. :-)

BTW: please write home. Your email box seems to be refusing my mail.

Posted by: Mary at July 28, 2004 07:37 AM