Bloggers get convention credentials
Instant, interactive communication making a political mark
By Marsha Walton
(CNN) -- A new breed of political observers will be offering volumes of pointed commentary at this year's political conventions.
But most of these bloggers (short for Web loggers) don't fit the profile of a traditional journalist on the campaign trail.
"They are igniting a great deal of enthusiasm and energy among partisans, at least among some of the very political blogs out there," said Howard Finberg, faculty member of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida.
For the first time, the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Convention will credential a small number of bloggers to cover their nominating processes. Blogging was in its infancy during the 2000 campaign.
Just as TV coverage of the presidential race gained its power with the televised debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960, Internet blogging seems to be coming into its own in 2004.
"I think we have to recognize that every media that comes along changes the shape and form of its predecessors," Finberg said. "It doesn't replace the previous form of communication, but it does provide another form of news and information. In the same way that the conventions have been changing, so has the media industry."
Whatever the political leanings of the bloggers, most agree that the new power of the blogosphere is what drives much of the Internet: interactivity.
"The whole point of blogging is this notion of participatory democracy," said Markos Moulitsas, who blogs at Dailykos.com. "And people appreciate that they are partners in this endeavor, that it's not just them taking marching orders, but it is them being asked their opinions, and their thoughts and suggestions on how to proceed."
Moulitsas, who will be blogging from Boston, Massachusetts, site of the Democratic convention, works closely with the party. He says he has raised more than $400,000 for Democratic candidates.
"I'm going to focus on what my audience really craves, which is information on Senate and House races, and the chances Democrats have in picking up particular races," he said.
'A very constructive response'
Glenn Reynolds, author of Instapundit.com, says blogs are prodding a lot of people into action.
"You can sit in your living room and shout at your television, which makes you feel helpless, you can turn off the television, which is no great solution, or you can try to do better yourself," said Reynolds, whose "day job" is a law professor at the University of Tennessee.
Blogger Glenn Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee.
"I think [blogs] are a very constructive response," he said.
Reynolds has no official ties to any party; his blog is usually described as conservative. He will not be in Boston.
Reynolds and Moulitsas routinely top the "Blog Influence Quotient" at Blogstreet.com, which monitors more than 144,000 blogging sites. Poynter's Finberg says original reporting and timeliness keep readers coming back to blogs.
"But there is a lot of silliness out there, Finberg said. "And there's lots of ranting out there. That's going to be the challenge for political bloggers and others, to be heard over the din."
"The blogosphere, the world of thousands of blogs, it's sort of an ecosystem happening, where certain blogs fill certain niches," Moulitsas said.
"There are blogs that, their role is to point people to interesting commentary, but I think Daily Kos was set up as a blog with more original content as opposed to directing people elsewhere," he said.
Although it's sometimes hard to sift through all the opinions, Reynolds says the e-mail he gets makes him feel much more a part of a global community.
"You just realize there are so many smart people out there, who have a lot of interesting insights, even though they don't have the traditional 'smart people' credentials," Reynolds said. "My favorite thing has been seeing Web logs start up in places you don't hear much from; the large number of Iraqi bloggers who are sometimes breaking news, and often adding a useful perspective on what's going on there."