The politics of blogging
Trying his own hand at the format, an SN&R writer jumps into Sacramento’s burgeoning political blogosphere … from the bottom up
Posting a message online, it turns out, is just another version of shouting from atop a soapbox—or, more to the point here in Sacramento, standing on the Capitol steps, bloviating about the state of the state.
Just as anyone can set up shop in front of the domed building and propound aloud, anyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection can blog.
And many of them do. The number of Web diaries focusing on California state politics seemingly has blossomed in recent months, with pundits, politicians and ordinary ol’ Joes alike transmitting their thoughts through data cables. Even Jerry Brown—Oakland mayor, former governor and current candidate for attorney general—has a blog.
The Federal Election Commission (FEC), however, may stymie the political blog bloom. It’s currently discussing how to apply McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law to the Internet—a debate that may leave political bloggers typing on eggshells, fearing fines and regulation.
So, before the fray fades, SN&R has decided to enter it with a blog-shaped article that, in typical blog fashion, reads from bottom to top. The first dated entry (the starting point) is at the bottom of this printed page.
Posted @ 4/20/2005 4:32 p.m. by jeffreyb
Who’s reading these things?
Political insiders rarely read news they didn’t already know. It’s why they’re called “insiders.”
So, trust that they’re not sitting in their offices right now, clicking “refresh” at www.bloginators.com.
Take, for example, Darrel Ng, a gubernatorial spokesman. He said after a press briefing that he rarely reads blogs that are opinion-based, unless a reporter calls in to the governor’s office with a question about something posted on one of them.
Alicia Dlugosh, press secretary to Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, said essentially the same thing in an e-mail yesterday.
“We all read Dan Weintraub’s blog mainly because it is a way to check for breaking news throughout the day. I keep my eye on it so I know what reporter calls I may be getting,” she wrote. She said she also checks in at www.arnoldwatch.org, a site dedicated solely to posting about Governor Schwarzenegger, for the same reason.
But Ned Wigglesworth over at TheRestofUs.org sent over a list of some of his favorite blogs; there are at least 10 dedicated to California politics that he checks daily.
The way bloggers cross-post—reference another blog and link to it—also suggests that bloggers make up the bulk of the blogging audience.
Anyone can set up shop on the Capitol steps to propound or criticize, celebrate or sing. But it doesn’t mean a crowd has to gather or that people will actually listen. And although blogging is a relatively new phenomenon in California state politics, that lesson is not.
Posted @ 4/12/2005 3:50 p.m. by jeffreyb
Traditional news is still king
What Jack Kavanagh puts together each morning is not a blog. There are no diary entries, and there are none of his personal opinions. Just a lot of links.
But the former television newsman is considered the grandfather of online news delivery of California state politics.
“It’s kind of the anti-blog,” he said of his site, Rough & Tumble. “I scrupulously try not to express a point of view.”
In the early 1990s, Kavanagh created the site to corral news of statewide importance onto one Internet page. He links directly to articles from newspapers’ Web sites.
The site is almost universally known by Sacramento politicos and policy wonks. Kavanagh said his site averages about 20,000 page views each weekday.
Kavanagh likes the idea of blogs but said he regularly only looks at two, both of which are written by traditional journalists.
“The average person, I think, still gets up in the morning, reads the paper and that’s it,” he said.
Posted @ 4/8/2005 7:24 p.m. by jeffreyb
Blogger with a cause
It would be easy to argue that Roger Salazar profits from his political point of view.
But the public-affairs consultant who has worked press for Bill Clinton, Al Gore and former Governor Gray Davis said he tries to blog about subjects other than those he is being paid to work on.
Recently, he has been working with the state Democratic party. And he is one of a handful of posters at www.calraces.com.
“It’s a political fix,” Salazar said, likening political blogs to the conversations he has with other political junkies when they meet in the street or in a Capitol hallway. “I like the ones that are a little more snarky.”
Salazar’s posts, however, come nowhere close to being as fiery as Bob’s Blog, an almost daily online posting by Bob Mulholland, spokesman for the California Democratic Party.
By way of example, Mulholland titled two postings in March “Republicans assault seniors again” and “Schwarzenegger needs seeing eye dog.”
Asked his opinion of Mullholland’s blog, Salazar said it is simply an extension of Mulholland’s duties with the state party.
“And it’s IDed as paid for by the party,” he said.
Posted @ 4/8/2005 1:37 p.m. by jeffreyb
Pay to blog
“Regulate us, Please!” read the title of a March 29 post on Democracy’s Daily Post, the blog at TheRestofUs.org, a Sacramento-based Web site that concentrates on campaign-finance reform.
Ned Wigglesworth said he spends one to two hours a day putting together the site’s blog, which has received as much as 1,000 hits a day.
He said using the blog allows him to quickly comment on many of the day’s news stories.
“It allows us to be able to put out our sp—to put out our take on a lot of issues,” he said.
Underneath the “regulate us” heading, the site’s founder, Derek Cressman, reprinted a letter he’d sent to the FEC, outlining why paid speech on the Internet should be bird-dogged.
“So, if our website, TheRestofUs.org, says from our soapbox that candidate Smith is an idiot, that’s free speech, not advertising,” Cressman wrote. “But, if someone pays us to put up an ad that says candidate Smith is an idiot, that’s political advertising and it should be subject to the same rules as all other political advertising.”
Posted @ 4/6/2005 4:02 p.m. by jeffreyb
Where blogging becomes electioneering
The blossoming of Sacramento’s political blogosphere comes at an interesting time.
FEC Commissioner Bradley Smith warned in an interview with online news source CNET last month that the commission’s decisions could force some bloggers to tone down political talk and take down links and ads to political campaigns—or at least count those links as political contributions.
Regulation even could affect Howard Dean-style e-mail lists.
“If I forward something from the campaign to my personal list of several hundred people, which is a great grassroots activity, that’s what we’re talking about having to look at,” Smith told CNET.
Posted @ 4/4/2005 12:34 p.m. by jeffreyb