Friday, June 02, 2006

The Blog Police, They Are Inside of My Head

Am I in? I’m In.

I’ve been asked, and the answer it yes. If you saw the blog posts or the Dispatch column or the blog posts about the article, you know that Barack Obama (sp fixed on edit) bought a number of tickets to the ODP Annual Dinner where he is headlining. Yes, I was invited and will be there.

Ohio lefty Bloggers are a fiercely independent lot, so a perk like this is unlikely to blunt their criticisms of the ODP, candidates or pretty much anything else. And that’s the way it should be, right? We should all say what we mean, right? So if I have some misgivings about this whole thing, you guys aren’t going to call me hypocritical for going.

Right?

Right?

Right?

Well, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. I worry about on the one hand bloggers losing that vaunted independence and on the other hand and anti-blogosphere backlash if we’re perceived as biting the hand. I worry how other Dem grassroots activists will feel if they perceive bloggers getting favorable treatment. I feel good about being selected, but I feel bad about friends as worthy as I who weren’t. I worry about the raft of crap coming from my mom when she finds out I won’t be there for k-pho’s birthday dinner tomorrow night.

Mostly I have problems with how the whole thing was handled by the bloggers. When the idea was first floated in emails, my initial response was to remember what Jill’s mom says – if you ask, the worst they can do is say no. But I also recognized that this is a fundraiser. Every comp ODP gives to a blogger is $150 less they make from getting Obama to Ohio. As a shear numbers decision, comping bloggers makes no sense.

For some reason, my friends in the ‘sphere don’t see it that way. The Dispatch article has unleashed a swarm of criticism rehashing the initial controversy and dumping on ODP Communications Guy Brian Rothenberg. I was away from my computer when the first round went down, so this is the first time I’ve expressed this: the initial decision not to comp bloggers made sense to me and the ire it raised did not.

I could come up with a long list of things ODP should be doing to reach out the blogosphere. To begin with, they could reach out. Campaigns do it; ODP does not. They could share that policy stuff they think is too complicated for mass circulation. They could recommend candidates Meet the Bloggers. They could just give the occasional shout-out. As of now, the only acknowledgement we get is a fairly new blogroll on the new ODP blog. Can you feel the love?

To me, comps for the dinner would almost be the worst of all worlds. It would be as if ODP was saying “We won’t help you actually blog, but here’s a shiny trinket for all your trouble. Now run along an play nice.”

Why should ODP to reach out to bloggers? For the same reason they should reach out to grassroots activists. For the same reason county parties need to communicate with voters as human beings rather than blips on a ward canvass. For too long ODP has been a top-heavy hierarchical bureaucracy and it’s Republican counterpart has been grassroots friendly.

One reason I get pissed about Stolen Election Guy is that he distracts attention from a more fundamental truth – Republicans won in ’04 because they turned out more voters, including more voters that didn’t show up in likely voter polls. That has to change and ODP has to do the changing. Or they will be changed.

Which brings me to my other mixed reaction – Rothenberg’s ill-advised quote about blog policing. Why any American would talk about any sort of communications medium being policed for content is beyond me. Clearly, someone needs to police his own communication better.

On the other hand, I agree with the first part of the quote: that the blogosphere needs to police itself better. Blogs in Ohio are moving from pure opinion to publishing original content. As we do so, we need to be rigorous – certainly more rigorous than we are – about getting it right. For example, this still sticks in my craw. I believe RussellPounderStaff got it wrong and wouldn’t admit it.

Problem is blogs are unlikely to suffer dire consequences if they don’t police themselves. You would like to think that the Marketplace of Ideas will sift the careful blogs from the reckless ones, but it’s not the case. Blogs more incendiary and loose with facts do much better than, say, this one. And it's frankly more hazardous to one's blogging life to criticize a fellow blogger than to go after a candidate or party.

I’d like to see an open discussion of blogger ethics and best practices, but they are unlikely to lead to anything bloggers actually follow. I suppose a blogger association could come up with a set of ethical standards and allow anyone who subscribes to them to post a bug on the blog -- a sort of Good Blogkeeping Seal of Approval. I fear even suggesting such a thing will earn me nothing but hoots and derision, but if anyone has suggestions, I for one would like to hear them.

10 comments:

Jill said...

Scott, this is an excellent post.

How the bloggers get in there, while I know it concerns many and maybe I should be more concerned than I was in this case, and I'll be flogged for it, isn't as important to me as the fact that the bloggers will be in there.

As I said to a friend of mine who was getting married and on the morning of the wedding, they'd forgotten some ceremonial prop and there was no way they'd have it for the ceremony, "Are you here? Is the groom here? Did you sign the marriage licenses? Then you've accomplished what you needed to: you got married. END OF STORY"

Bloggers will be covering and blogging tomorrow night and about tomorrow night. In the end, isn't that what we all wanted?

PS - You cannot imagine how many times my mother has asked for stuff that I can't BELIEVE she ends up getting. It's obscene. Totally. No, make that embarassing.

PPS WLST is not listed on the ODP blog - but I've never asked for it to be. I suspect it's not political enough as in, there are not as many political posts as perhaps they'd like. Which is a-okay by moi.

redhorse said...

Pho Points, the Pride of Rockford, Cheap Trick.

I'll respond more later, probably at my place. But at least you've made my headache worse, thanks Pho.

redhorse said...

Pho points: the pride of Rockford, Cheap Trick.

I'll respond later, probably at my places. your points are valid, I think, but my head already hurts.

Kyle said...

Pho,

Don't over think this great opportunity. I don't see any conflict of interest here. You are going to cover an event and blog on it. You don't have to write a glowing fluff piece and have every right to be critical if something rubs you the wrong way. As a blogger, they should view you just like the press, but a known schizophrenic. We write whatever we want and that is part of our charm. This sets a great precedent for future political fundraisers... comp the bloggers.

I think it is great that they invited you guys and political campaigns in Ohio should take note and give bloggers access to their campaigns. Take your camera!

redhorse said...

Oh, the camera's going (unless I forget it...).

Anyway, one nit-pick, Kyle. Instead of comping the bloggers, how about credentialing them?

Jill said...

Jason, I hear from Brian Rothenberg that there will be a blogger credentialing process available tomorrow. Seems precedent setting to me, though whether others see it as mandatory, persuasive or completeling irrelevant precedent, we can't say yet, right?

FYI - Scott - you probably know this but for sure your blog is read, even the comments, by the ODP because mysteriously, or not so mysteriously, my blog's now listed on the ODP blog. Too cute. Damn, and I love my outside knows-nothing facade so much. Totally blown now, well, until people start reading it. :)

redhorse said...

Ask and receive, Jill, or mention it and receive. something like that.

Eric said...

Scott,

Great post. As usual it is with great thought and attention that you write this. It is a reason I read and respect you. One of the benefits of tomorrow is I will be able to talk to you about this very thing...along with all the others.

I look forward to it...

k-pho said...

Not that you need it, but you have my blessing to blow off my b-day thing. You'll may still get guilt from other quarters, though...

Daniella said...

Scott,

I am glad that you will attend, it will be an interesting situation. As we are all gearing for November 2006 it is critical to get to know the ODP's agenda and bring to them the voice of the people.

Frankly I do not think the local news have done a great job in that respect.

As usual your post was honest and well written.