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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Well, if the New York Times says so, it must now be true
Posted by Jill | 11:02 AM
The Grey Lady welcomes its new key-tapping overlords:

The Year of the Political Blogger Has Arrived

Beginning Monday, hundreds of bloggers will descend on Denver to see Barack Obama accept his party’s nomination. Next week, hundreds more will travel to St. Paul to witness John McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. But now these online partisans, many of whom are self-financed, must contend with all the logistical and financial hurdles just to get there — not to mention the party politics happening behind the scenes.

This year, both parties understand the need to have greater numbers of bloggers attend. While many Americans may watch only prime-time television broadcasts of the convention speeches, party officials also recognize the ability of bloggers to deliver minute-by-minute coverage of each day’s events to a niche online audience.

“The goal is to bring down the walls of the convention and invite in an audience that’s as large as possible,” said Aaron Myers, the director of online communications for the Democratic National Convention Committee. “Credentialing more bloggers opens up all sorts of new audiences.”

But some bloggers see the procurement of credentials as less of a privilege and more of a right, in recognition of their grass-roots influence. “This is stuff we deserve — we helped the party get people elected,” said Matt Stoller, a political consultant and a contributor to the blog Open Left, who worked as the volunteer in charge of getting credentials for bloggers at the Democratic convention four years ago. “Maybe in 2004 it was about being accommodating and innovative — but this time around there’s a real fight for power in the party.”


“It’s unprecedented access for bloggers, yes, but it’s certainly not equal access,” said Ms. Spaulding, who learned last week that Pam’s House Blend would receive two extra credentials. “What, pray tell, is the big secret?”

The annoyance felt by many bloggers is familiar to those who previously attended conventions as correspondents for smaller print publications. “This is very reminiscent of being at the low end of the totem pole,” said Micah Sifry, the co-founder of the group blog Techpresident.com, who formerly wrote for The Nation magazine and attended his first convention in 1984. “They can’t buy a sky box, they’re scrambling.”

One perk that bloggers will have access to in Denver is the Big Tent, an 8,000-square-foot two-story structure adjacent to where the convention is being held. For a $100 entrance fee, 400 credentialed bloggers will be allowed to enter the air-conditioned space, hosted by a coalition of progressive blogs and organizations and sponsored by the Web sites Google and Digg, where they can eat meals and find work spaces with Wi-Fi.

“I’m telling everyone to meet me at the Big Tent,” said Fred Gooltz, 30, an online strategist with Advomatic, a Web development and strategy firm. “That’s where I’ll be meeting everyone else who’s like me, folks that I’ve only met online or blogged and e-mailed with.” Mr. Gooltz sees the $100 fee as a bargain, especially since he would rather network “with movementarians, who see themselves as a progressive movement, separate from the Democratic Party hierarchy.”


For bloggers who do not wield as much influence as Mr. Moulitsas, paying for the trip to Denver meant appealing directly to their readers for contributions — an uneasy bargain for many writers who value their independence.

Ah, but there's the rub, isn't it? It reminds me of when I was a $10,000/year secretary in 1984, working with Gary Hart's campaign, and Hart's local campaign manager, Bret Schundler, who would later become well known as the wingnut mayor of Jersey City, suggested I run as a Hart delegate. There wasn't much I would have to do to run, but I would be responsible for my own convention expenses. So of course I had to turn it down.

In the world of political blogs, that there is no monetary infrastructure for progressives to get a seat at the table is a serious problem. The right wing has think tanks and startup money, while progressive bloggers have to put PayPal links on their blogs and hope enough people think enough of their work to contribute a few bucks to send them to the convention. Even a "hey kids, let's put on a conference" event like Netroots Nation is becoming prohibitively expensive for many people. Where is the infrastructure?

I suppose the recognition of bloggers as a force in political communication is a step in the right direction. But sooner or later, we have to find people who are willing to pony up some cash to build an infrastructure.

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