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Panel: Blogging, journalism and politics

Filed in: blogging, politics, SXSW2004, Tue, Mar 16 2004 17:45 PT

Joel Greenberg, the moderator, set the scene. There are 1,060,000 bloggers. 61k news analysts, reporters, and correspondents. 106k editors. 42k writers and authors. 136k public relations specialists. Two things he points out: more bloggers than all others combined, and more PR people than reporters and writers combined.

Sean-Paul Kelly of the Agonist: Showed today’s Austin American-Statesman, and how few stories on the front page are really of importance. Bloggers are “leading journalistic indicators” driving stories into the mainstream press.

Cameron Barret: The media spent all this time on Janet Jackson and not enough on actual issues.

Castellano, a radio host from KOBJ: Big mistake is that the people believe everything they read. Blogging serves a purpose, but there are so many alternative media that they can get online. Alex Jones, for example, is a nutcase (my word) in Austin who has a large audience. She was really down on blogging in general, and didn’t believe that it had any effect on traditional media (an observation that runs counter to evidence). Really came off sounding like someone trying to preserve their career path, rather than engage with the outsiders.

How soon will blogging be associated with other senses? (Me, to a neighbor: “this blog tastes terrible!) Barret: Audio and video bloggers are already out there. Other senses aren’t defined yet. Greenberg: Cheap stuff allows people to do this more easily.

How did Wesley Clark pay attention to the blogs? He was very aware of it, and why they were doing it. He sent in blog postings via his BlackBerry. Castellano talks about Dean’s blog, and how its failing was that it was preaching to the choir, so not a good approach to gathering new voters.

Kelly: Wolf Blitzer said that blogs are the left’s equivalent of talk radio. (Yeah, but it’s also the right’s equivalent of talk radio.)

Kelly commented in relation to a question that the editing process helps to take emotional reactions to, say, freebies, out of mainstream media, and bloggers don’t have that. Ergo, objective reporting is less likely. Barret adds that blogs need to be edited. “People want good writing. People want good opinions. The more you edit it, the better it gets.”

Someone asked how to get the people online to act offline. (Which is something I brought up to Zach Exley of MoveOn the other day.) Cameron Barret mentioned he’s been hired by the Kerry campaign to work on software to facilitate offline discussion and action. He said they were going to have materials available to people who lived in rural areas, were less educated, etc. (I really hope he doesn’t end up selling people short just because they’re not reading a blog. It’s more than just dumb hicks that they have to reach out to.)

Kelly says the primary interest in papers should be to inform people. Profit motive should be secondary.

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