Monday, August 27, 2007

What Are Political Blogs For?

Atrios has some ideas about this today:

One problem that the "netroots," whatever that is, has is that there's tendency by Democrats to see it as just another player in the interest group checklist politics game. So, sometimes "this will piss off the blogs" is a consideration, and a similar one to "this might piss of NARAL" or "this might piss off the Sierra Club." We're a noisy somewhat influential group to be placated somehow.

Now that's not how I see things as I think blogs should be seen more as an opportunity to influence media coverage and narratives, as well as helping to stitch together a broader-based political movement.

But it isn't very surprising the Democrats don't really understand how blogs work within the media, as they've long failed to understand how the media works generally. So it's difficult to communicate and explain the "good" the blogs can do when a lot of them just see us as a noisy sometimes-pain-in-the-ass. This isn't true of everyone in DC, of course, but one has to remember that of congressional staffers are often shockingly young and really can't be expected, no matter what their talents, to have a grip on all this stuff in a sophisticated way.

I agree that people who don't read blogs on a regular basis often have very weird ideas about what blogs are. This even includes some people in the traditional media, and many of the discussions on blogs I read there reveal more about the fear of blogs as a competitor for the financially troubled newspapers than about what blogs actually can do and can't do.

Blogs don't do actual reporting, or only in very few cases. Blogs can't replace a news office, or only in the very unlikely case that a blogger has independent sources of wealth. Blogs will not make newspapers obsolete, though the newspapers of the future will be on the Internet and most likely somewhat changed from their current form.

So what are political blogs for? To provide a conscience for mainstream journalists, sure. To be a whipping boy or girl when politicians need one, sure. To provide a way of creating mass movements or of nurturing them, sure. But to me the most important job of blogs is to turn silence into sound, to give those who are not listened to in the corridors of power some place to say what they want to say, to make the political conversations more inclusive and more thorough.

I only wish they had come up with some better name for these things than "blogs". It sounds like a hot potato in the back of your throat.