BOSTON—Much ink, both real and electronic, has been spilled over the presence of credentialed media bloggers at this weeks Democratic National Convention. They have received almost as much attention as Michael Moore and other celebrities in attendance at the Fleet Center.
Perhaps the most useful part of the bloggers presence at the DNC is the ability to put a face with a name to bloggers who are used to living only online. One is Christian Crumlish, author of the forthcoming book "The Power of Many: How the Living Web is Transforming Politics, Business and Everyday Life," and creator of three separate blogs—www.thepowerofmany.com, www.radiofreeblogistan.com and www.mediajunkie.com/edgewise.
Crumlish embraces the notion that blogs are here to stay, but not that they will be the end of mainstream journalism. "Blogs are a medium of influence more than a mass medium," he said. "Its interactive, reciprocal, what the street is thinking, a kind of collective unconscious. A sign that someone else is thinking what Im thinking. Im still a news junkie. I read the New York Times and other traditional media, but dont get breaking news from blogs."
Much more than a novelty act, the bloggers have been allocated a workspace in the stands with tables and wireless access. They also have the help of David Sifry, founder and CEO of Technorati.com, a blog-monitoring business that has set up a convention portal for bloggers in attendance.
"I was a blogger who wanted to know what people are saying about me," said Sifry, who founded Technorati in his basement in 2002. Now his software monitors "the buzz" on 3.2 million blogs comprising 474 million page links. His site survives on advertising and sponsorships, and also by preparing reports on blogs. Technorati not only counts page views and unique visitors, but more importantly, determines the influence and authority of a particular blog, measured in how many people are linking to it.
Most bloggers dont make a living managing their blog, but do so as part of their real-world jobs or to augment their profession. As Crumlish explains, hes a writer whose blogging "reinforces" what he does for a living.
The same goes for Jay Rosen, who by day is chair of the journalism department at New York University, but also runs a blog, www.pressthink.org, which offers a forum on the nature of online and print journalism not found within mainstream media. "I cover the journalism we have and the journalism we need," he said.
Of particular interest to Rosen this week is the fact that more than 15,000 members of the media are present, yet very few of them would say there is much news going on at the event, and that the DNC (and the Republican National Convention next month) is a "scripted infomercial." The paradox of this mass media coverage is a niche for bloggers, he said.
"The deeper challenge," he says, "is what do journalists regard as news, what story are they willing to tell. They may not be news stories but they are important, something else. Bloggers are flexible enough that they dont have the restrictions that can define whats worth telling."
Another blogger with his roots in "traditional" journalism is Dan Kennedy, media critic at the weekly Boston Phoenix, and who maintains the daily Medialog at www.bostonphoenix.com/medialog/. Kennedy thinks blogs have their place but that we shouldnt get too caught up in their hype. "Its a funny thing. The person I think is the best in the country is Josh Marshall [www.talkingpointsmemo.com]. He wrote something many months ago that he spends very little time looking at blogs, I said, Whew, Im glad Im not the only one."
Blogs are "not a fad," he said, "but that doesnt mean its here to stay. Weve seen a number of interactions of Web media. It has changed many times already. Salon started in 95, Slate in 96, and in fact that turned out to be a very bad economic model, because theres still just the two of them. The Internet tends to reward very passionate individuals who are willing to make [little or no] money. In that respect, blogging or whatever comes next is definitely here to stay."