Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Blogger Sitdown Coverage

Stoller Steals the Show

By Ken Krayeske

After listening to Matt Stoller this morning, I am not so sure I want to be labeled a journalist.

Stoller, blogger extraordinaire from MYDD, excoriated the ethical shortcomings of dead tree media during the Hartford Courant Key Issues Forum panel discussion at Hartford's Christ Church Cathedral.

"To say journalists have a system of ethics is false. It is not true," Stoller said. "It is an attempt to make a larger conversation that needs to happen in journalism, not happen...[Ours] is a corrupted and corroded media system."

Stoller pointed to the failure of the media to accurately reflect the viewpoint of 15 million people who marched against war in February 2003, and the fact that a majority of Americans wanted the U.S. to go through the United Nations in order to secure approval before invading a soveriegn state.

Some irony exists in the fact that the Courant, owned by gigantic media conglomerate the Tribune Company, hosted this discussion of bloggers like Stoller, Genghis Conn (Chris Bigelow) and CGG of (Melissa Ryan) of CTLocalPolitics, Colin McEnroe and Tim Tagaris, formerly of Ned Lamont's campaign, currently the online director for Chris Dodd's presidential campaign. Courant editor Tom Condon moderated.

The concept of branded information being more credible must be questioned, McEnroe said. The emergence of voices like CTBob, Spazeboy and CTBlogger as sources who broke news during the Lamont campaign showed that the calcified, hierarchical structure of institutions like the Courant no longer serve the public.

The fact that newspapers and big media now gains its legitimacy from the amount of money they make for Wall Street destroys their credibility, Stoller said.

"It's a different conceptual framework," Stoller said. "The ability to generate profit as opposed to gaining your source of legitimacy from the public," your credibility becomes your arbiter of quality.

Most bloggers, according to CGG, are unpaid, and perhaps because they self-finance, their credibility increases. She stopped short of couching the volunteerism as public service. But Stoller did that for members of the Fourth Estate.

"If you are not serving the public, you are not doing your job," he said. "A newsroom has to reflect public diversity. "

And that means that newsrooms should reflect diversity of thought and skin color and socioeconomic background. Stoller pointed out clearly that everyone at the forum was of similar race and socioeconomic strata.

The explosion of blogs allows that, and the disenfranchised have grabbed the foothold.

McEnroe invoked Marshall McLuhan's famous tract, the Medium is the Message, saying that talk radio is more conducive to right wing propaganda, whereas the internet is a better platform for liberals.

Stoller repudiated that, noting that since Spiro Agnew, the right has posited the myth that the media is too liberal. With Reagan's media deregulation of the late 1980s, liberal talk show hosts, and many other diverse voices, were removed from radio.

"Individuals create the message," Stoller said. "They are spreading content. It is no longer coming through a received authority. It is part of a larger cultural trend of the internet re-empowering the public, and threatening the elites who run institutions...The public is helping to organize things now. "

The quality of discussion across the political spectrum, where people connect despite deep ideological divides, is the challenge for sites like CTLocalPolitics. Stoller noted how deeply divided America is, and that our national discourse lacks listening among the shouting, and perhaps people need to talk in moderated, dispassionate tones.

CGG added that a site like CTLocalPolitics, which positions itself as non-partisan and welcomes comments from all points of view, would have trouble surviving in a larger state.

Occassionally, a Hegelian moment occurs on CTLocalPolitics when people acknowledge the legitimacy of opposing points of view, McEnroe said.

To me, that discussion among level-headed fact-based people is what the marketplace of ideas is all about. Despite my overall misgivings about the navel gazing that went on at the Forum this morning, the hope remains that we can bridge the divide between left and right and find the best solutions for our country.

Online Conversations

by Christine Stuart

A panel of political bloggers gathered Wednesday at Christ Church in Hartford to discuss what they do, why they do it, and who is reading.

The panel’s moderator, Tom Condon of the Hartford Courant said when blogs first started they were commenting on the news and not covering it, now bloggers are getting credentialed to cover news firsthand, like in the recent Scooter Libby trial.

Genghis Conn (Chris Bigelow) founder of Connecticut Local Politics, a non-partisan blog, said bloggers have always wanted to cover events. He said he worked hard to get credentialed to cover the Democratic State Convention last year and “it took a lot of doing..” He said its been difficult for blogs to get the same sort of respect mainstream news outlets receive.

Ned Lamont’s campaign for senate against U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman gave unprecedented access to bloggers and forced the mainstream media to read blogs, which gave the public a window into the campaign, Tim Tagaris, who ran the Lamont campaign web site said. The mainstream media, “had to read the blogs to do their jobs,” he said.

Caffeinated Geek Girl (Melissa Ryan) said bloggers would cover more original news but they have jobs, families and lives. “I would love to do it everyday, but that’s not my reality,” she said.

Matt Stoller of said the Scooter Libby trial is a good example of why there is a need for blogs. He said reporters have a hard time with institutional memory.

In the Libby trial “they had a hard time understanding their own roll in the process,” and they didn’t have time to get the timeline rights and were “getting spun flacks” as a result, he said. He said editors and publishers need to understand that “if you’re not serving the public” with your reporting, “then you’re not doing your job.” He said bloggers want to have a conversation with the public.

WTIC talk show host and Courant columnist Colin McEnroe, said he uses blogs “for going outside conventional wisdom.” He said if anyone had said Lamont could beat Lieberman in a primary back in January last year they would have been “laughed out of the newsroom.” He said people who read blogs are looking for something that’s not filtered. Admittedly his Courant blog site “To Wit” is viewed as an extension of the Hartford Courant and therefore does not fall into this category of unfiltered news.

Who is reading blogs?

Bigelow said men in their 50s comprise about 80 percent of his audience. He said he also understands younger readers in their 20s feel more comfortable with blogging and technology.

Where is the future of blogs going?

Stoller said the future is at the local level. It’s there that bloggers have “an enormous capacity to influence,” he said. Click here to read Chris Bowers piece on MyDD about how the political photosphere is shifting away from top-down content toward a bottom-u audience generated model.

Bigelow agrees. Just last week he unveiled a citizen journalism project called, Town Blogs. The new site allows users to generate their own content about their local towns. The domains will be hosted by Connecticut Local Politics, which focuses on news about Connecticut’s Congressional delegation and state politics.

Bigelow said in 2005 he was searching for news on races for state representative and in several districts turned up with nothing on some of the candidates. “There was hardly any in depth reporting on any of the candidates in local races,” he said. To fill the void in the market he created a Wiki page that included all the candidates running for office in 2006.

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