By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Political blogging and community

I’ve got an essay in the summer issue of Nieman Reports on political blogs and what the traditional media can learn from them.

At their worst, political blogs of the left and right do little more than reinforce their readers’ prejudices. At their best, though, they provide a virtual community in much the same way that newspapers at their height served a geographic community, helping them understand the news in the context of what like-minded people are thinking.

The question is whether the traditional media can learn those lessons without giving up their journalistic souls.

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  1. Don, American

    Their readers don’t think of them as prejudices, but deeply-held beliefs. Possibly, sometimes they’re right. Being ALWAYS right (correct) is a big responsibility. Who of us is up to it?

  2. Steve

    Just remember, if you’re not right on the Internet, you have to face this guy. :-)All in all, a good, thoughtful article with respect to journalism and blogging. The last paragraph, especially, expresses something true which hasn’t been this clearly articulated.I have a couple of quibbles – Your comparison of DailyKos and LGF was jarring. LGF is pretty much one guy, and the community is pretty much closed except when he invites new members (a couple of times a month for a couple hours at a time, irregularly). He’s quick to ban people for expressing non-conforming opinions. And, obnoxiously, he chooses to redirect links from blogs he disagrees with, so it’s inconvenient to link to him.DailyKos is a complex community – *anyone* can join, any member can comment, and any member can author diaries. There is a stated purpose (elect progressive Democrats) and a code of conduct, and you can be dropped from the community misbehavior, but enforcement of that is pretty permissive.The proper right-wing analogue to DailyKos, I think, is RedState. It’s the same kind of community blog, open to anyone, have a declared purpose, and they’re are fairly tolerant of dissent (in my experience).The second quibble is when you say about blog community members:This trend toward online community-building has given us a mediascape in which many people — especially those most interested in politics and public affairs — want the news delivered to them in the context of their attitudes and beliefs.This is not a new phenomenon, and it existed well before blogs. It’s the basis of two-newspaper towns. It’s natural that people want their opinions validated. Here we’ve got the Globe and the Herald. Even in Dayton 30 years ago there were 2 papers – the morning one was conservative, the afternoon one was liberal – and they were published by the same company! So I would say the urge to fit in is not that new. Markos’s comment supports about British journalism this point.But like I said, those are quibbles. I have often held out the hope for the ‘net that it will be the antidote for the social isolation fostered by TV. We can be a community of participants, not a community of watchers.Thanks for the article.

  3. Carl

    Most bloggers don’t in general hide their prejudices. The old media in many ways hides under so called “being objective” and won’t admit to biased reporting. When real mistakes are made they hide a correction, if any, in the back pages. I believe that the traditional media live in their own self made bubble breathing their own stale air.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    Steve: Thanks for your thoughtful observations. In general, I’ve found that successful political blogs of the left are good at building community right on their sites, whereas successful political blogs of the right tend to be more lone voices, building community by linking to other conservative bloggers. (Like InstaPundit.) But interesting thoughts about Red State, and will take a closer look.

  5. John Gatti Jr

    I read your post with great interest several times and would like to offer a perspective.Over several decades involved with advocating government accountability and oversight, I noticed the outsiders from the left, center, and right who sounded the alarms.They were constantly drown out by well financed special interests be they democrats. republicans, busines, labor, consultants, vendors and providers with their army of media gurus, lawyers, and friends in the right media places.I am one who has come late to blogging, not accepting any donations, or on anyone’s payroll. I finally gave in and have realized the freedom to blog newspapers(local and national), holding them accountable and able to blog the conservative HUB POLITICS to the liberal BLUEMASS GROUP.With the turmoil in the newspaper and broadcast industry because of the internet and people no longer reading their daily newspaper or tuning in to the 3 news networks…. Blogging appears to be the way the no or underfinanced citizen or advocate cand have a say or exposed waste, fraud, and abuse in government and business.lik

  6. Anonymous

    Chris Hedges joined was on a panel recently at Wesleyan and intimated that the natural shift for American print media was to the British ideologically driven style…though I like your point about the decline of community, which seems to be the more valid argument for a depressed interest in straight news…

  7. Ari Herzog

    A fascinating read, Dan. And Fiedler’s piece that follows yours.I’d like to comment on one piece you mention in the essay but not above: that the notion of old-fashioned communities full of educated and aged newspaper readers are fading into obscurity and unable to cohesively mesh with newer modes of communication.I wrote on my blog today about everyone being an ambassador of social networking even if they don’t know it. I quoted several paragraphs from a Utah librarian who blogged in 2004 about church communities and the U.S. Constitution and how both support the idea of social networking that we see echoed in instant messaging and peer-to-peer networks.Perhaps news organizations with fading readerships need to look at the power of faith-based organizations and how the belief in a commonality is sometimes enough. If newspapers are reporting news for no other reason than the need for content to squeeze between their advertisements, they’re not being church-like and they’re not acting like “we the people.”

  8. Stella

    The internet is nothing more than a diaphanous Speaker’s Corner, the ether a mystical Hyde Park.

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