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Thursday, November 9, 2006
PoliColumn (Blogs and Politics)
By Dr. Steven Taylor @ 9:59 am

This ran in print on Sunday, but finally made it online yesterday.

From the Press-Register:

Blogs highlight good, bad, ugly
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
By STEVEN L. TAYLOR
Special to the Press-Register

The era of the instantaneous is upon us. News, information and opinion now travel at the speed of light and are available to us whenever we want, wherever we want.

Consider just the last half-century: In the 1960s it was considered a wonder that every night, for 30 minutes, we could get same-day news from Vietnam.

In the 1970s, we saw the Watergate hearings live on network TV.

In the 1980s, Ted Turner brought us 24-hour news via black coaxial cable running into our homes (and, by the way, many people thought it would never last).

In the 1990s we watched the first Gulf War 24/7 on cable news. At the dawn of the 21st century we watched live, via videophone, the invasion of Iraq.

Beyond the revolutions in television and cable is the remarkable power of the Internet. Not only can one gain, whenever one wishes, access to breaking news via CNN, Fox News or The New York Times online, but there is also an army of individuals watching, gathering and commenting on that news around the clock.

We call these people bloggers, and they occupy a specific area of the worldwide Web known as the “blogosphere.” Even if one is not a reader of blogs, one likely has witnessed their effect.

In 2004, it was a blogger who noted the errors in a “60 Minutes II” story regarding President Bush’s Air National Guard career. That situation eventually led to Dan Rather leaving CBS news.

At its simplest, a blog is nothing more than a Web site that is updated daily by a given author or set of authors. A blog could be focused on anything, including a hobby or one’s daily life.

However, the blogs that tend to get the most exposure are those focused on politics.

Blogs allow citizens to act as editors (bringing together the news that they think is important), as commentators (sharing their ideas with anyone who would like to read them) and even sometimes as reporters (bringing new information to the public).

We need look no further than the current electoral cycle to see the impact of blogging on politics. For example, the Connecticut Senate race — specifically the Democratic primary — was the focus of a number of left-leaning bloggers who sought to oust Sen. Joe Lieberman from the Democratic Party.

One very popular blogger, Markos Moulitsas of the Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com), appeared in a commercial for Lieberman’s opponent, Ned Lamont.

Lamont went on to win the race. Lieberman is now running as an independent.

In the pre-blog era, a given gaffe or error by a politician might be kept under the radar, or the public relations staff of the politicians might be able to engage in spin control.

Now, it is possible for the action itself to be posted to a Web site with video and sound and immediate reaction.

Further, because blogs are interconnected in a variety of ways, when one even semi-prominent blogger begins talking about a subject, it has the tendency to sweep across the blogosphere.

Such “blog swarms” have erupted over a number of issues in the current electoral season, including the controversy over campaign ads in the Tennessee senatorial campaign and any number of events involving Sen. George Allen’s re-election bid in Virginia (the latest being video of Allen campaign workers tackling a heckler).

Even this past week, the story of John Kerry’s botched joke attempt was spread far and wide at least in part by bloggers. During the height of the story, had one checked Memeorandum.com, an aggregator of blog content, one would have seen dozens of references to blogs discussing the subject.

The blogs in question represented hundreds of thousands of readers an hour — numbers that many newspapers and magazines would look at with envy. The exposure Kerry received, both on blogs and on cable TV, led to his cancellation of several campaign stops during the final days of the electoral season.

The fact that blogs help drive stories among politically actively, educated and tech-savvy voters is indisputable.

In regard to Alabama politics, the lack of general drama these days (e.g., all seven of our congressional races are locks and the governor’s race is not especially competitive) means that the chance for blogs to be significant in our politics at the moment isn’t that high.

Nevertheless, if one is seeking information about politics in our state, the blogosphere is there to help. For example, one might go to the aptly named “Politics in Alabama” (www.politicsinalabama.com) for perhaps the blog most consistently focused on this topic of state politics.

Others also regularly comment on Alabama including “The Alabama Moderate” (http://almoderate.blogspot.com), Bamacrat (www.bamacrat.blogspot.com), and “War Liberal” (www.bravesbeat.com/bravesjournal/warliberal).

My own site, PoliBlog (www.poliblogger.com), also discusses Alabama politics, but only as one among many topics. A list of Alabama-based bloggers of the political and non-political stripe can be found at www.al.com/blogs/index.

There is an awful lot of information out there, and one of the key services that bloggers can provide is aggregating the information in a set location. At a minimum they help to filter and organize the copious information provided by the mainstream press.

Further, by identifying and highlighting the good, the bad and ugly of both the mainstream press and of politicians, they can affect outcomes and perceptions.

One thing is for certain: The Internet will increasingly become a direct source of information on all things political as we move forward, and they will play a key role in the 2008 elections.

Filed under: US Politics, My Columns, Blogging, 2006 Elections | |Send TrackBack

7 Comments »

  1. Thank you so much for the mention in the Article!!

    You hit the nail on the head stating that it is hard for Local Bloggers to drive people to our sites when the Federal Elections and Governor’s office are not heated races. I believe though that we can continue to focus on legislation going through Alabama as well as how some national issues will affect us.

    Again thanks so much for the mention!

    Comment by Jeff Vreeland — Thursday, November 9, 2006 @ 10:18 am

  2. My pleasure and keep up the good work.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, November 9, 2006 @ 10:20 am

  3. You make a convincing argument. But then again, I guess in my case you are preaching to the choir.

    Comment by Jan — Thursday, November 9, 2006 @ 10:49 am

  4. Don’t read many blogs on Alabama politics, do you? :)

    Comment by Mark — Friday, November 10, 2006 @ 10:54 am

  5. Not as many as I ought. However, I was also limited in terms of space.

    You have some suggestions that I should have included?

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Friday, November 10, 2006 @ 11:26 am

  6. http://www.betweenthelinks.com
    http://www.politicalparlor.net

    for two.

    Comment by Mark — Thursday, November 16, 2006 @ 3:25 pm

  7. Thanks. I have been to both, but will endeavor to read them more frequently.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Thursday, November 16, 2006 @ 3:41 pm

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