Thursday, July 29, 2004
Unimpressed with the blogs: PC Magazine columnist John C. Dvorak, a writer I admire, is unimpressed with the quality of the blogging at the Democrat National Convention.
A cynic would suggest that bloggers, overwhelmed by convention attention, will be suckers to public relations pros resulting in a hopeless parroting of the party line in ways traditional media folks wouldn't do.
A post mortem on the bloggers will determine if they end up providing a public service or if they became a gullible conduit for propaganda.
From what I've seen so far on the Technorati convention blog watch, I'm not impressed.
Many of these posts are vapid observations combined with simple Kerry boosterism or knee-jerk Limbaugh-Republicanist complaints.
Some are simply an undecipherable mess. Hopefully a few professionals will come in and publish some thoughtful pieces before the exercise is over, but this looks laughable thus far.
I can't say that I'm surprised. Most bloggers fall into one of two categories: linkers or thinkers. Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit is a linker (this is not to imply that he doesn't think -- his Tech Central Station columns and other forums get his "thinking"). Steven Den Beste is the epitome of a thinker.
There are very few blogs that do anything resembling reporting. Occassionally bloggers will go to anti-/pro-war rallies and report what they heard and saw on their blog -- I've done it before -- but out of all of the blog posts in the known universe, this is an extremely small subset.
It should really come as no surprise to anyone that if you take a group of people, no matter how talented they are, with little or no reporting experience and no direction and plop them down and expect them to "cover" a convention -- it's unlikely the results will be a shining example of new media journalism. But it can be done.
After spending about an hour wading through many of the DNC-accredited blogs, I'm convinced that Dvorak is right about the Democrat convention coverage. Many of the blog posts are things that could've been done by watching the convention on C-SPAN -- there's really no need to have the blogger actually in the building. (The most inane item I came across was this audioblog post -- what a bunch of self-important, post-modern hokum.)
As the Democrat convention ends today, there's not much that can be done to better the blogging. But I disagree with Dvorak's contention that "The notion of making bloggers into homespun reporters is ludicrous."
The most well-read bloggers already have the basics of what it takes to be a good reporter: curiosity, skepticism, wit, writing talent and an analytical mind that looks beneath the surface.
According to Dvorak:
What they [bloggers] do best is comb the Internet for overlooked information and obscure reports.
The real world isn't that different. Instead of combing the Internet, sift through the convention. To help out, I've got some story ideas for some of the bloggers going to the upcoming Repubican convention so hopefully Dvorak can be pleasantly surprised:
See if you can shadow either RNC chairman Ed Gillespie or DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe around for a day and write about it.
Spend a day among the protesters. Take photos. Interview them.
Interview some delegates about Bush's runaway spending habits, the steel tariffs, etc. What changes would they like to see in a second Bush term. Get specifics, not platitudes.
Pick out a correspondent with one of the major broadcast or cable networks and follow them -- everywhere. What's their attitude when they're off-camera?
Find one of those select convention speakers and watch them as they practice their speech. Talk about any changes that were made to their speeches and why.
The bloggers who are attending these conventions are a select group. Don't sit in the stands and "liveblog" the speeches -- us poor saps at home can do that (and we need something to do, so let us do it).
As you spend your valuable and finite time, ask yourself: "Is this something I could've accomplished sitting on my couch?" If the answer is yes, get off your duff and get out of the "bloggers' corner" or whatever they call it. Go places. See people. Do things.
Blogs are supposed to be interesting. Don't do the same old thing.
On a related note: Dvorak echoes my prediction that MSNBC's "Hardblogger" is would be anything but.
Then again, the pros may not fare much better if we look at the professionally written Hardblogger web pages run off the MSNBC site. See it here. This is a self-congratulatory blog that is best compared to People Magazine for content.