Monday, June 19, 2006

Bloggers Filling a Vacuum

As I was in Charlottesville for the 2006 Sorensen Blog Summit less than five hours, I’m hardly in a position to have the overview that some other attendees now have. (Now I wish I had planned to have been there longer.) So, I’m relying on other voices to draw most of the conclusions from the confab, especially to do with the interaction between bloggers, the overall mood, etc. I’ve already enjoyed reading some of their instant observations.
Saunders Hall
Beyond that, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s written about the conference, and its topics, a week from now, or a month. Still, here are a few quick snippets of observation from this geezer:

Some political bloggers are not celebrity-worshipping kids, with their noses pressed against the window of what’s happening in the so-called real world.

Some are not ham-handed propagandists pretending to be pundits.

Some are not irresponsible blowhards, who throw stink-bombs into the room, while hiding behind anonymity.

Some are really not all that young. Real bloggers come in all sizes and shapes, but the most plentiful category in C-Ville was Young White Guys, whatever that means.

Some political bloggers are already holding themselves to a genuine standard of honesty and fair play that rises about much of the legit press, the mainstream media. Others are moving in that direction.

Some deplore the lowroad tactics that nefarious political operatives have used -- dirty tricks -- in the name of blogging in particular, and free speech in general.

Some are right-wingers, others lefties, plenty of them are bright, funny and well-meaning. Some number of them are people who are going to become well known because of what they are learning now and the talent they are bringing with them. Who doesn’t see a bright future for 15-year-old blogging phenom, Kenton Ngo, of 750 Voltz?

So, dear reader, the picture of the typical blogger looks something like you and me. Except, most of them are better citizens than the average guy, because they are in touch with public affairs way beyond what TV dishes out on Inside Edition.

The snapshot of the blogging world I saw on Saturday was flattering to the political bloggers of Virginia. So, I hope they all had their self-esteem buffed by the experience of attending the Sorensen’s second Blog Summit. Yes, blogging can be an honorable pursuit, no matter what folks who scoff at the still-forming blogosphere say.

The most significant notion I came away from Charlottesville turning over in my mind was this: Political bloggers aren’t merely storming the gates, because the new technology allows for it. Not at all. Many of them are being pulled into the most modern streaming marketplace of ideas by what feels to them like a vacuum.

Why not? A vacuum exists.

With the merging of media corporations the number of daily newspapers in America has steadily declined over the last three decades. Richmond has one, as do many cities. The weekly alternative magazines that once thrived in so many towns have mostly died off, or been converted into fluffy ‘zines of no consequence that are scared to cover politics.

That same trend has gathered up the diversity that cable TV once promised, leaving just a few players in that realm. Radio stations used to be mostly owned by local people all across this country. Now, with recent FCC changes, nearly all of them are owned by corporate giants.

I could go on, to make my case stronger, but I think anyone who has read this far into the rant, probably gets my drift. That’s because most people don’t care all that much about the dumbed-down homogenizing process outlined above; they aren’t so worried about it. Bloggers are.

Collectively, bloggers feel the need to comment and exchange views with others who read something other than the rewritten press releases the so-called legitimate press passes off every day as journalism. Bloggers care about local, state and national politics in a time of widespread denial. Most of the electorate may not be paying attention to what politicians are almost saying, and not even doing.

Today's bloggers are serving as the peoples' watchdogs, as modern town criers. In spite of all the silliness than can go on in the blogosphere, some thoughtful bloggers are nonetheless operating within a proud tradition that goes back to the American revolutionary pamphleteers of the 1760s and 1770s.

Blogging is the beginning of something. It’s new and nobody knows where it will take us, although it‘s surely fun to guess. There’s plenty that needs fixing about it. Still, I don’t want to be left behind. As I’ve been involved in alternative media my entire adult life, I‘m going to ride this new rocket into the pull of the vacuum as best I can. Beam me up, Scottie...


Waldo Jaquith said...

That's a splendid summary.

F.T. Rea said...


Congratulations. The team that put that event together did a good job. Thanks again for including me.

-- Terry

Conaway B. Haskins III said...


I look forward to seeing your contributions to the cadre of alternative voices in the Richmond media market. I hope that my work can one day rise to the level that you and others have established.

-- Conaway