Bloggers: The new media or a fad?
BOSTON -- Just as the Hindenburg disaster ushered in radio as a news medium and the first Iraq war catapulted 24-hour cable news, the 2004 Democratic National Convention welcomes bloggers into the media mainstream.
But it's not just the officially credentialed bloggers who have shown up at the FleetCenter. Some delegates have been posting content on Web sites while on the convention floor.
That proves how dynamic the medium is and shows the challenges traditional media -- and even legitimate bloggers -- face in competing with one another when technology makes publishing for a large audience easy, bloggers at the convention said yesterday.
"While I think it's noble and symbolic of our legitimacy that we were asked (to be here), the fact of the matter is the DNC couldn't control the medium if they wanted to," said Alan Nelson, who created The Command Post, a popular blog that relies on 120 writers throughout the world for its breaking news content.
Nelson contends that when John Kerry announced John Edwards would be his running mate for the presidential election, Nelson's site had the news online three hours before CNN.
For those who are behind the curve, a "blog" (short for Web log) is a freewheeling Internet forum where people write about everything from their daily travails to analysis and coverage of news events.
It's the latter category of bloggers who are present at the convention. Thirty bloggers operating legitimate, popular -- and mostly liberal -- sites were given media credentials by the Democratic National Committee.
Yesterday afternoon, Nelson was blogging about a John Mellencamp warm-up session, putting a photo and audio on his site, www.command-post.org As many as 15,000 people visit the Web site each day.
Nationwide, 53 million adults have posted some form of personal content on the Internet and 11 percent of all Internet users read Web logs somewhat regularly, according to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life project.
"Some bloggers have a readership that rivals columnists at major metropolitan newspapers," Sifry said.
But bloggers and others have mixed opinions on what kind and how much of a threat this new type of journalism is to traditional media outlets.
"I don't know how you guys stay in the game except by analysis, so you're going to become a giant collection of opinion pages," said Hugh Hewitt, a blogger at the convention who is also a radio talk show host and author.
"No matter what you do, it will not appear until tomorrow morning -- and whenever you stop writing, the world can change after that. What I do is immediate, which is why it is preferable. To the extent that people want news, they want it immediately. No matter what you do, it's day-old bread," said Hewitt, who operates the site hughhewitt.com.
Most bloggers, unlike traditional media outlets, don't have the resources to research and publish in-depth investigative stories. And many bloggers rely on newspapers and magazines for their information.
At the same time, journalists are increasingly relying on bloggers to find experts and pundits and as new sources of information.
"People are creating this distinction between blogs and traditional media, but I think that distinction is becoming fuzzier and fuzzier," said Brian Montopoli, who operates the blog campaigndesk.org for the Columbia Journalism Review.
Bloggers who mix news, analysis and opinion have forced reporters to move beyond simple "he said, she said" journalism, Montopoli said.
Still, several recent stories about blogs call the phenomenon a fad that will pass. Bloggers beg to differ.
"I understand jealousy. Radio said television was a fad and movies said television was a fad," Hewitt said. "It's always the fear that new technology spawns."
The sheer numbers of people visiting and creating blogs also make the "fad" label questionable, said Sifry of the blog-watching site. He holds high hopes for the new medium.
"I'm more and more convinced that just as e-mail reinvigorated the art of letter writing, blogging will reinvigorate civic discourse," he said.
But while the debate continues and the aspirations grow, bloggers themselves have to contend with all the attention while still doing their jobs. Many have given dozens of interviews from their perch high in the FleetCenter.
"I sort of avoided being up here too much because I wanted to make sure I could get some work done," Montopoli said.
Some blogs at the convention:
Alan Nelson: www.command-post.org
Hugh Hewitt: www.hughhewitt.com
Brian Montopoli: www.campaigndesk.org
P-I reporter Wyatt Buchanan can be reached at 202-263-6433 or email@example.com
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]