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Slogging Through The Blogs

The 2004 Democratic National Convention is now in the history books and so is the first experiment at "blogging" a political convention.

I wasn't in Boston during the convention but logging on from the comfort of the high-speed broadband line in my home, I was able to monitor the three dozen or so blogs (short for "web logs") that had credentials to cover the convention, allowed for the first time to work side by side with some 15,000 journalists from more traditional media.

Some were actually quite interesting. Many were boring and others were just downright confusing.

The first thing I noticed when I tuned in on Monday was that most of the bloggers were focused not on the convention itself but on the phenomenon of blogging. It was a bit self-referential: kind of like "Hey, we're here, we're blogging and isn't this cool."

There was plenty of coverage of a blogger's breakfast on Monday morning and incessant commentary about how the "big media" was paying a lot of attention to the bloggers. In fact, some bloggers complained they were spending so much time being interviewed by "real" media that they didn't have time to keep up with their blogs.

But by Tuesday, something very interesting started to happen. The blogs started focusing on, of all things, what was going on at the convention. Reports of the speeches, the parties, the interesting occurrences in the hall began to replace the self-serving discussions of blogging for blogging's sake. In other words, we were witnessing a maturation process.

I kept reading the blogs for the remainder of the week and by Thursday night, I actually found at least a bit of insight that I wasn't getting from the TV and the professional pundits - at least not right away.

While watching John Kerry's acceptance speech on TV, I was tuned into some blogs and I was reading commentary on Kerry's speech - as he was giving it. You can't get that from the morning paper until the next morning and it's not possible on TV or radio without interrupting the speaker. Of course, seconds after Kerry stopped, the TV was full of the usual pundits and spin artists, but the bloggers beat them to it.

In many ways, reading the blogs was a bit like getting letters from friends, even though I haven't met very many of the bloggers personally.

Because I'm in California and not in Boston, I didn't get to hang out with conventioneers at a watering hole immediately after Kerry's speech, but I did get the flavor of the experience from blogger Jeralyn Merrit (http://talkleft.com/). "We're sitting in the bar at the Onyx Hotel near the Fleet Center," wrote Merrit, logging on through a public wireless Internet connection. "It's packed, and there's wi-fi. It's midnight Boston time, and all we hear is 'Great speech.' "

And, unlike professional journalists, it's OK for bloggers to be partisan. Whether you agree or not, it's interesting to note the comments of Ezra Klein who, immediately after Kerry finished wrote on his Pandagon.net blog: "Stunning. He did it. I didn't think he could, not after Obama and Clinton and Edwards and Cleland. But he did it. He gave the perfect speech for this moment, for this race, for this crowd."

After watching the convention on TV, listening on radio and reading about it in newspapers as well as in blogs, I'm not convinced that the presence of bloggers significantly impacted the way conventions are covered - at least not yet - but it was refreshing to hear voices that we might not otherwise have heard. While not as polished or balanced as the pros, the bloggers did offer some interesting alternative perspectives.

Next stop, New York - where the Republicans will also be allowing a selected group of bloggers to cover their convention.



A syndicated technology columnist for nearly two decades, Larry Magid serves as on air Technology Analyst for CBS Radio News. His technology reports can be heard several times a week on the CBS Radio Network. Magid is the author of several books including "The Little PC Book."

By Larry Magid

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