The Blog Primary
Thursday, June 01, 2006 :::
A reader send in a lengthy and interesting piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education on the evolving role and rising profile of political blogs.
Of greatest interest to modern students of politics are the blogs that focus on public affairs. Mainstream political news media regularly check what blogs are saying about a given story -- or how they created it. Surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and other organizations have found that most contributors to those blogs follow campaigns and political debates and are extremely likely to vote in elections. Politicians and activists are naturally eager to get their message to such a target audience while also bypassing the mainstream media's editorializing and heavy fees for advertising. Yet, as one political consultant I know put it, "The $200-million questions are: What are blogs? How can we use them? What exactly are they good for?"
Even experts cannot answer those questions because political blogs are in a state of flux. Are they a revolution or an evolution in political speech and activism -- or a return to the more partisan press of the nation's early days? Will political bloggers challenge or complement traditional politics, political work, and politicians? Are bloggers representative of other Americans, or are they a minority of politically active citizens? How much impact will blogs have on political discourse and, ultimately, on voting behavior? Are they further Balkanizing American politics, with liberals reading only leftist blogs and conservatives reading only rightist ones?
Probably the most important area for research on blogs today is what role they will have in the presidential election of 2008. A necessary starting point is to consider how similar blogs are, as a new medium or genre or venue, to traditional components of presidential politics.
These are all valid questions. But I suspect that as this article focuses almost exclusively on the large, national blogs and the role they play (or think they play) in national politics, it's conclusions aren't exactly applicable to the small pond of Virginia.
Still, there can be little doubt that Virginia's political and policy blogs are closely followed by those either in office, seeking office or writing about both (meaning the press). How much credence these audiences give or ought to give our online barking is an open question.
More Navel Gazing
Via Andrew come a few more items relating to blogs, blogging pols and those who read them.
First up, this USA Today piece about congressional bloggers...or more accurately, the staff drones who do the blogging for them. The only note of realism comes at the very end, and I like it in part because of the swipe at crazy Cousin Pat:
"People ought to know what we're doing," says Leahy, who produced a blog to explain arcane legal points during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of John Roberts and Samuel Alito.
Leahy says the response was positive, but University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato doubts there is wide appeal.
"Anybody who downloads these people onto their iPods needs medical help," Sabato says.
That's sweet. Of course, many of those same people probably subscribe to Sabato's Crystal Ball e-newsletter. So, yes, they need help...desperately (I'll take all the pain killers you've got, doc).
Next up is an item on the DC Examiner and how they have begun giving bloggers regular column space, the first of which can be found here by Betsy Newmark. This fits in with Shaun's post on the distance between blogs and newspapers and how the twain may just meet.
::: posted by Norman Leahy at 6/01/2006