Saturday, October 27, 2007

Blogging -- And Feeding -- The Horserace

Intriguing Howie Kurtz piece in yesterday's WaPo about how blogs in mainstream news outlets are affecting the presidential campaign. Here's the thesis:

    The mushrooming number of political blogs on newspaper and magazine Web sites has altered the terrain of the 2008 election. Campaign officials have learned to feed the bottomless pit of these constantly updated compilations, leaking favorable tidbits -- a new poll result or television ad -- and quickly disputing negative items.

    In short, journalists and political strategists find themselves sparring more and more over smaller and smaller items on shorter and shorter deadlines.

At times I've expressed the pitiably naive hope that blogs and other Web 2.o contraptions could move us beyond horserace politics. That instead, the proliferation of outlets would encourage citizens to debate issues, problems, solutions -- in short, policy.

I've moved on from that hope. Certainly that exists for people willing to take the time to seek it out. But usually blogs engage in a binary conversation in which every issue is divided into a left position and a right position and each new development is slotted according to which position it supports. Partly this is because many bloggers are partisans of one wing or another. Part of it also is that covering the horserace or slotting issues into left or right is just easier. Hell, I have three posts on my wish list right now; this is the one that doesn't require any additional research.

Now that MSM outlets are jumping on the blogwagon, the blogosphere's service to horserace politics is a fait accompli. Because of blogs , things are different. Not better. Just different.

By the way, Kurtz notes that of all the campaigns, Hillary Clinton deals with blogs the most aggressively. Another reason she's pulling ahead by several furlongs.


Jill said...

I know I should read the entire Kurtz piece before leaving this comment but so be it:

Scott, don't you think that there ARE some of us who absolutely resist using those tidbits Kurtz says are fed to the sphere? Yes, many many many of them show up a range of political blogs (from trusted to disgusted), but many of us don't report on press releases at all or when we do, we really editorialize them.

What do you think?

Scott Piepho said...

I absolutely think that's true and mentioned that in the piece. But I also think the blogosphere in the aggregate is drifting toward strident partisanship and horse betting and fear that the MSM blogs may make that a fait accompli.

Jill said...

Well - I see that and I don't see it. I mean, I still believe that many if not most blogs exist because of a passion and/or frustration that needs expression, for the blog author, as opposed to being driven by the candidate or the issue.

What I read in Kurtz's piece is that the papers' blogs and the candidates wag each other. But the kind of blogging that is different, that matters and endures is the blogging that is just reflexive and responsive to the candidate: we're responsive to the reader and to instincts about interests that the readers, the audience have - not responsive to what the politicians want us to respond to - do you know what I mean?

I believe that to the extent papers' blogs simply interact with the candidates adn the issues and race one another, they aren't doing anything new or different and readers ultimately will turn from them on the Internet as readers turn from that stuff in print.

It's the Wom blog and your stuff and Lisa Renee and The Chief Source kind of material that I believe cuts a different image and one that resonates more with people who really want to know what's going on.