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20040801 Sunday August 01, 2004

Technorati in WSJ The Wall Street Journal doesn't want you to know what they're talking about or link to them without a bunch of rigamarole and commitment. Yet they "get it" well enough to cover the blogging story at the Democratic National Convention. Clueless and clueful, an enigma and a riddle. And so it goes.

I thought it was really cool that Technorati was in WSJ last week for the Blogwatch joint endeavor with CNN. But the irony is not lost on me that while most of the media makes it a point to provide access to what they're talking about, WSJ has an iron curtain drawn around their content.

So here it is, in all of its glory (it's so glorious, you can't link to it):

Bloggers Enter Big-Media Tent

Boston's Political Circus Lends
New Legitimacy to Web Scribes

July 27, 2004; Page A6

(See Corrections & Amplifications item below.)

Bloggers have written their way into the mainstream, and the media may never be the same.

This week Democrats have granted official media credentials for their convention to more than 35 political Web loggers, or bloggers.

They range from 16-year-old Stephen Yellin of New Jersey, who writes for the widely read dailykos.com, to David Weinberger, a 53-year-old fellow at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Their attendance signals a new legitimacy for Web commentators and has spurred intense debate about their place under the media tent.

At the same time, the mainstream media have rushed to join the blogger party. MSNBC rolled out a site this week called "Hardblogger," featuring postings from Chris Matthews, Andrea Mitchell and Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for Web-savvy candidate Howard Dean. CNN is partnering with the Web-tracking site Technorati to produce Blogwatch, a feature that is tracking the musings of the credentialed bloggers. And the Associated Press launched its first blog, featuring the insights of veteran newsman Walter Mears.

At least one established media outlet plucked a popular blogger to report from Boston. MTV News hired Ana Marie Cox, who writes the risque, inside-the-Beltway gossip blog Wonkette.com, to report live from the floor of the Fleet Center arena where the convention is being held. She seems to find the whole experience amusing. "So what does MTV want with you?" Ms. Cox asked herself in a pre-Boston departure post, as blog reports are called. "We have no idea. They just put a pile of money on the doorstep, handed us a plane ticket, said something about 'sink or swim' and ran away."

In his first entry from Boston, Josh Marshall, author of the popular talkingpointsmemo.com, wrote, "The whole thing is mystifying to me. Blogs make up a small, specialized niche within the interdependent media ecosystem...not producers but primary or usually secondary consumers -- like small field mice, ferrets, or bats."

Whatever type of political animal they may be, bloggers are very much a part of the circus. Inside the Fleet Center, one of the windows at the Democratic News Service is reserved for bloggers so they can arrange interviews with politicians and delegates. "Bloggers Boulevard," as the seating area inside the arena for bloggers is called, is outfitted with wireless technology so the bloggers can post from mobile devices while watching the festivities.

Yesterday morning, the Democratic National Committee even hosted a fancy breakfast attended by about 30 bloggers at the Hilton Back Bay Hotel. For every blogger, there seemed to be a reporter from a traditional news organization ready to conduct an interview. As a further show of the bloggers' growing clout, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean and U.S. Senate candidate Barack Obama of Illinois, who will deliver the convention's keynote speech tonight, stopped by to speak and answer questions.

Among those absent is Andrew Sullivan, the former New Republic editor who writes Daily Dish, one of the most popular and continually updated conservative blogs. "I think the conventions are a waste of time," says Mr. Sullivan, who didn't bother to apply for credentials. "They're a TV show, so I'll watch them on TV. I'm not a big fan of schmoozing with other journalists just for the hell of it."

Several bloggers were disinvited because too many people had been accepted, says Mike Liddell, the convention's online communications director. One of them, Adele Stan, decided to come to Boston anyway. "The great thing about blogging is you don't need no stinking badges," she writes. "Whatever happens to you, wherever you wind up, whoever you meet, that's what you write about."

Mr. Liddell expects bloggers to give readers an unvarnished look at what goes on at the convention. But the topic on many minds inside the media pavilion is the creeping impact that blogs are having on the mainstream press. In a recent dispatch on his site thetruthlaidbear.com, N.Z. Bear wrote: "They may not know it yet, but the bloggers aren't there to cover the convention. They're there to cover the journalists."

Bloggers already have been doing that. In December 2002, Mr. Marshall jumped on Sen. Trent Lott's comments praising the late Sen. Strom Thurmond's segregationist Dixiecrat party. Eventually, the mainstream press seized on the remarks and they became a major scandal, forcing Mr. Lott to step down as Senate majority leader.

This sort of back-and-forth with the mainstream press -- whom bloggers depend on for material but relentlessly skewer for what they call overplaying or underplaying stories, bias and other perceived errors -- is an oft-stated goal of bloggers.

Campaigndesk.org, a site that continually critiques professional journalism in a blog format, is having an impact, too. "Editors like us and reporters don't," says Steve Lovelady, the site's managing editor. "Some scream bloody murder...nobody's as thin-skinned as reporters."

Eventually, the distinctions between blogs and other media will blur, predicts blogger Daniel Drezner, who was recently hired to write an online foreign policy column for The New Republic.

Write to Christopher Conkey at christopher.conkey@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications:

The Web address of N.Z. Bear's blog, The Truth Laid Bear, is truthlaidbear.com. This article incorrectly listed the Internet address as thetruthlaidbear.com.

So that's it in its entirity. I'm not normally into violating terms of services, copyright infringement or voiding my warranty. I'm posting this as a statement to WSJ: join the rest of the planet and figure out how to be read and linked to without all of the high ceremony and obligations. You might hope that by the time the repelican convention hits, they'll have caught the cluetrain, but don't count on it. ( Aug 01 2004, 03:16:19 PM PDT ) Permalink