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By Robert MacMillan washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 27, 2004; 9:54 AM
The press is making plenty of hay lately about the Democratic Party's decision to treat a small list of Web loggers ("bloggers" for the stubbornly uninitiated) just like real journalists at this week's presidential nominating convention in Boston. Most of the coverage of the Boston bloggers has been pretty straightforward, while here and there you can discern a whiff of shock from professional journalists, something along the lines of, "Who are these thieves in our temple?"
But a press pass is not the same thing as a party pass. As sleep-deprived, overcaffeinated, grouchy journalists already know, covering events like a national convention is all about spending hour after tedious hour enduring boring politico-speak and being kept away from the stars of the show while a couple of top-dog columnists exchange bon mots with the real glitterati somewhere else. And it seems like some of the bloggers have realized this -- though they're taking it in stride.
There's evidence to this end at The Providence Journal's blog site, where Sheila Lennon in her "Subterranean Homepage News" (nice Bob Dylan nod there) reports straight from Blogger's Boulevard at the Democratic National Convention. As she notes, the bloggers may be the talk of the town, but that hardly translates into front seats; they sit "way up in the rafters of the Fleet Center, just below the CNN booth." Lennon uses the words of Jesse Taylor, author of the Pandagon blog: "Okay, so as virtual nobodies, we've learned a valuable lesson. Knowing about parties does not garner you a way in to parties. Perhaps the most important lesson of this convention, bar none. I really need to get in someone important's pants by Tuesday in order to actually meet people -- at this rate, I'm going to be reduced to hoping that someone shows up at one of the events I've already been invited to. I'll even take a Utah Democrat, I swear!"
And another interesting thought from Pandagon on why the bloggers have been getting so much coverage: "We are kinda new, making us newsesque. We're a good destination point for young journalists needing to file a story. But here on the inside, used to and comfortable with being ignored, the attention seems astounding -- are they covering anything else!? Well, yeah; of course they are. We're just getting some much undeserved coverage as well. People are fascinated by bloggers (ooh, what a strange word!), but a lot is filed in a day and our obsessive notation of every media mention (60 seconds here, two paragraphs there) makes small but plentiful references seem like major stories occupying huge chunks of the media's resources. They aren't. It's just that those stories are occupying a disproportionate amount of our -- my self-googling ass included -- minds."
Back at the Providence Journal, Lennon notes the character of much of the blog coverage at the convention in a single phrase: "Show it, don't tell it." As she reported yesterday afternoon, "Reports from the The Bloggers Breakfast this morning range from 'We had breakfast and Barack Obama and Howard Dean spoke' to good, you-are-there reports."
The Providence Journal: Bottom-up' Journalism From the Pros
National Public Radio correspondent Robert Smith covered the bloggers in a report that aired Tuesday morning. He noted that their "sometimes quirky, often shrewd novelty made them media stars." Smith took note of the special breakfast where convention chief executive Rod O'Connor greeted the famous 35 personally. NPR followed up with some more analysis of what it means to be a blogger -- and the "definite coolness factor attached to it" -- citing New York University journalism department head Jay Rosen (himself a blogger) as saying that "their impact may be exaggerated" but they provide a nice change from "jaded journalists."
National Public Radio: Bloggers Offer Intimate View of Convention
One immediate problem that people tend to notice with blogs is that if their thoughts were printed on paper, the sheer tonnage would drive away even the most thorough readers. There are only 35 "independent" accredited bloggers at the convention, but the mainstream news organizations have rushed in with their own blogs, usually filtered at least a little bit through an editor or two. Combine that with the thousands of other politically oriented blogs out there and the result is a reading smorgasbord that can only be sampled in tiny doses. The Los Angeles Times offers a full list of the accredited 35 (thanks to cyberjournalist.net for pointing it out), as well as its own musings from special correspondent Lisa Stone.
Los Angeles Times: Convention Blog Watch (Registration required)
The Wall Street Journal offered up its contribution to the seemingly bottomless "What are bloggers" story angle, singling out one conservative columnist who, as it turns out, blew off the Democrats' convention despite the blogging possibilities: "Among those absent is Andrew Sullivan, the former New Republic editor who writes Daily Dish, one of the most popular and continually updated conservative blogs. "'I think the conventions are a waste of time,' says Mr. Sullivan, who didn't bother to apply for credentials. 'They're a TV show, so I'll watch them on TV. I'm not a big fan of schmoozing with other journalists just for the hell of it.'"
The Journal also included some other noteworthy blogger thoughts: "Several bloggers were disinvited because too many people had been accepted, says Mike Liddell, the convention's online communications director. One of them, Adele Stan, decided to come to Boston anyway. 'The great thing about blogging is you don't need no stinking badges,' she writes. 'Whatever happens to you, wherever you wind up, whoever you meet, that's what you write about.' Mr. Liddell expects bloggers to give readers an unvarnished look at what goes on at the convention. But the topic on many minds inside the media pavilion is the creeping impact that blogs are having on the mainstream press. In a recent dispatch on his site truthlaidbear.com, N.Z. Bear wrote: 'They may not know it yet, but the bloggers aren't there to cover the convention. They're there to cover the journalists.'"
The Wall Street Journal: Bloggers Enter Big-Media Tent (Subscription required)
Barry the Shill?
Miami Herald uber-humor columnist Dave Barry is in Boston, blogging away with the best of them. The blog itself is a somewhat threadbare affair, though it features a nice photo of Barry with purported presidential candidate Vermin Supreme (see it to believe it). What's more interesting is Barry offering links to a bunch of other bloggers (who, as it appears to the trained journalist's eye, all work for fellow Knight-Ridder publications), including Daniel Rubin of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Alan Bjerga of the Wichita Eagle and Tom Webb of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press.