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Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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June 21, 2004

Blogging the Political Conventions

Posted by Ernest Miller

WIRED is carrying an AP wirestory on the Democrats' decision to permit bloggers at their upcoming national convention (Blogs Welcome at Dems' Convention). Only a certain number of bloggers will be credentialed and the official selection process sounds like it can hide a fair amount of subjectivity:

More than 50 bloggers met last Tuesday's deadline to apply for the Democratic National Convention credentials, of which an undetermined number will be selected based on originality, readership level and professionalism, said convention spokeswoman Lina Garcia.

But wait, Dave Winer says, this (This AP article about bloggers):
should disgust anyone who believes in the First Amendment, and by the way, it probably strongly indicates why no news ever comes from either of the major conventions. They only want bloggers who will carry the party's message.

Robert Heverly on Displacement of Concepts claims something similar if only using more temperate language (Blogs and Politics):
In other words, [Democrat Party officials will] check out the applicants, and pick the ones most likely to be nice to them. Why wouldn't the Republicans do the same?

Well, I suspect that both Heverly and Winer are right; the Democrats are likely to only select bloggers who will, more or less, blog in the party's interests. However, I can't seem to muster any surprise or interest in this story, which I wouldn't even care about except for Heverly and Winer's comments on it. Read on...

This is about a political convention. It isn't a news event as much as it is a several day-long commercial for a party and its presidential candidate. Where is the news in a political passion play that adheres closer to the script than Stanley Kubrick? In addition to the commercial aspect, a convention also serves as a celebration for the party loyalists who like to dance the Marcarena en masse and express wild exuberance when their state's nominating votes are read aloud. Wooo hooo! This sort of thing is important to the people who work hard on this stuff and care, but it isn't news.

Of course, tens of millions will be spent on hospitality suites, flag porn swag, silly hats, and all the rest of the quadrennial circus (Thank you corporate sponsorships donations!). Millions more will be wasted by the conventional news media covering this non-event.

Where will bloggers fit in all this? Not in a very important way, most likely, but I retain some limited hope. Heverly, apparently, does not:

I think the decision to allow admission by application for message-verified bloggers to attend is a testament to the political parties' understanding that citizen journalism on the Web can be manipulated, controlled, and fed in a way that "mainstream" media probably cannot.

Of course the political parties are trying to manipulate press coverage, but the bloggers aren't the only ones; the mainstream media is the main focus of the manipulation. As this will be the first convention covered by bloggers we will have to see how they do, but the evidence of manipulation of the mainstream press is overwhelming. Even treating these events as important is part of the spin the mainstream media has bought into. Press releases will merge into, simply, press.

In any case, if the bloggers being chosen are not known for their independence of thought, than their selection will most likely be a failure at what the parties are trying to accomplish and will most likely backfire as the opposing side fact checks the blind party spinners into blog ridicule (goodbye, indepedent credibility). I'd rather have the openly biased viewpoint of someone I consider to be an independent thinker than all the press release regurgitation of the mainstream media.

Blogs at conventions might be as dull and un-newsworthy as the mainstream press at a convention, but it would be hard for them to be worse. We will have to see whether blogs can avoid the pitfalls of the mainstream media, the jury is out.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism


1. ericl on July 22, 2004 07:57 PM writes...

The event makes lots of sense. I was last at one of these things in Chicago in 1996, and it turns out that the Hardware Show was bigger than the Democrats.

Political Conventions are CONVENTIONS first and formost, there are parties and receptions and these are for the people who actually GO THERE.

Think Shriners or Trekkies.

Add to this the Electoral College. There are two days of formal crap to do. Once apon a time the formal stuff was the be all and end all of the whole thing, but now it's a TV show.

If the Dems knew what they were doing, they'd let Kucinich, Sharpton and the rest get their names in to nomination, then let all their delegates vote for them, like in 1976. It gives the illusion of a race and is more fun.

Make it interesting.

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