I spent the day at a conference on “Covering Politics in Cyberspace” put on by USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. Basically, the idea of the conference was to get a group of around twenty five journalists together to discuss how they will be covering the 2008 election cycle. The concept for first day (today) was to bring in experts on online politics and political bloggers to talk to reporters about what they should be looking for.

I won’t say much about my panel, as I was too busy racking my brain for clever things to say to take any notes. I will say that I thought my fellow panelists Nancy Scola, Micah Sifry, Chuck DeFeo and Colin Delaney were all outstanding. But I did listen to the panel after mine, “So What Role Will the Blogosphere Play in 2008?,” with interest. It featured bloggers Robert Cox (Media Bloggers Association), James Joyner (Outside the Beltway) and John Amato (Crooks and Liars). Here are the threads of the discussion that I found most interesting along with my comments:

(1) Both Amato and Joyner expressed frustration at reporters who steal scoops or stories from their sites without sufficiently attributing the source of the idea.

I couldn’t agree more with this. Among bloggers there is a cultural of linking back to the blogger who originally “breaks” a story and then building on the original idea with commentary and additional info. It is just sort of fact that some journalists mine blogs for ideas and often don’t properly attribute their work. They should.

(2) Joyner felt that when he is interviewed by broadcast reporters that they often treat him as a blogger firm and a person second. He is put in a position where he is asked to speak for the blogosphere as a whole instead of just for himself. He said that when someone interviews George Will, they don’t ask him what columnists in general think about the topic of the day. They ask him what he thinks. Joyner felt print journalists are better at making the dinstinction.

This struck me as true. The blogosphere is a messy, diverse place. This kind of superficial approach to things betrays a lack nuance in their understanding. The blogosphere doesn’t have or need a spokesperson.

(3) Amato and Joyner’s individual stories sort of brought home the diversity of the blogosphere. Amato is a musician who started blogging when he had health problems. He leans to the left and is motivated by anger at the direction of the country and at the superficiality of much media coverage. He is sort of a watch dog. Astoundingly, Amato and a group of other bloggers raised $550,000 for Democrat candidates during the 2006 cycle. They did so by encouraging folks to let them know what candidates were deserving of support.

Joyner is a former college professor who used to email articles and commentaries out to friends. He started blogging as a way of creating a database of his commentary. While he leans to the right, he considers himself to be more of a commentator than an activist.

This made me wonder if there is a fundamental difference in how blogs are used by the right and left. Liberal bloggers as activists and conservative bloggers more as pundits. Maybe not, but something to think about.

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.