A Web site and Weblog About Topics and Issues Discussed in the Book We the Media by Dan Gillmor

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July 23, 2004

Boston Bloggers

(This will also be a column in tomorrow's Mercury News.)

A modern national political convention is theater. Candidates are actors, and delegates are props, with the media serving mostly as stenographers and, in a few cases, critics.

Next week's Democratic convention in Boston will feature a new batch of critics: bloggers. For the first time, people who write Weblogs have been accredited as media representatives. Good.

The main reason this is a useful development -- if not an earthshaking one (except, needless to say, in the "blogosphere" itself) -- is the injection of new voices into a process that has become all too routine. Some political bloggers have become must-read commentators, as essential in helping us understand the process and its meaning as any professional journalist working for a traditional media organization.

Some old-media types have been harrumphing mightily at the bloggers' incursion, frowning on the notion that bloggers are journalists in the first place. Wrong issue. Are book writers journalists? Some are, and some aren't. Ditto bloggers.

The bloggers won't begin to replace the professional journalists, whose work I admire and rely on for certain kinds of information. But if they do their jobs right, the bloggers will bring something valuable to the mix.

Where Big Journalism remains mostly a lecture, blogging is more a conversation. The bloggers are individuals, moreover. Some are experienced political journalists. Many in Boston will be neophytes when it comes to national politics. All, however, speak with genuine voices from their blogs -- voices their readers have come to know and in many cases trust. Blogs are simultaneously immediate, intimate and subtle.

Due to the very nature of blogging, they'll be reporting from the edges of our increasingly ubiquitous data networks. I hope they'll experiment with the tools of this emerging trade. Technology has given average people new ways to collect and distribute information to global audiences, and this is an opportunity to show how grassroots journalism can be created and, crucially, seen in new ways.

There's another collection of potential bloggers in Boston: the delegates themselves. I, for one, would love to see the nearly real-time observations of the people who have been designated as TV props -- the political activists, big-time contributors and others who could pierce the scripted phoniness and show us the event's largely unnoticed nuances. If I spot any such bloggers, I'll link to them on my own site.

I'll be in Portland, Oregon, next week, speaking at a conference on open source technology. Open source is the process in which anyone can view and modify the source code, or programming instructions, to make improvements or otherwise tweak it for their own uses.

Bloggers practice a form of open-source communication. The best of them listen and study. Then they write, and then they listen and study again, and write some more. We're still learning how it all works, but I know this: Something new is happening, something we need to watch closely.

  • For a list of convention bloggers with links to their sites, see this CyberJournalist.net page.
  • (Cross-posted from eJournal.)

    Posted by Dan at July 23, 2004 08:51 AM


    if you like that, you'll love the boston.indymedia.org blog like coverage of the DNC ... unfiltered coverage of the DNChemedia.oreilly.com are the property of their respective owners.