Sunday, June 18, 2006

2006 VA Political Bloggers Conference

Some random thoughts on this weekend's bloggers conference in Charlottesville (unfortunately, I was only able to be there on Saturday):

Decrying the Divide
I am disappointed that the Virginia political blogosphere has allowed egos, partisan bickering and polarization to divide bloggers into those who attended the "liberal" Sorenson conference (strange denomination given keynotes by McDonnell and Bolling, but it is true that conservative bloggers were outnumbered) and those who will attend a "conservative" bloggers conference in Collinsville in August.

Last year's blogger's conference was distinguished by the collaboration of Chad and Waldo bringing the blogging world together as a "community" to engage in reasoned discourse across philosophical and political lines. Perhaps we should all go to Collinsville to seek to rebuild communications across the silly battle lines drawn this summer, that is, if those of us who participated in this weekend's meeting are "allowed" to attend the other.

C'mon guys... Do we need to model our behavior on the traditional organizations that we all so often criticize? Wouldn't it be refreshing if we could come together despite egos and politics to engage each other as peers? We should try to do better.

Blue Dog
Being obstreperous and contentious is my friend Steve's brand. He didn't disappoint.

Campaign Finance
Chris Piper did his usual effective job helping folks understand the state campaign finance rules to the extent that they are understandable. Audience member, former governor's counsel, and campaign law expert, Lee Goodman, added great substantive comments to the discussion.

For the most part, using common sense works. If you get paid to blog, campaigns would have to report your fees just as they'd have to report any other payments for services. If you get paid to blog by others and you give your services to the campaign, the market value of the services should be reported as an in-kind contribution. If someone pays you for an ad, they'd have to report it; if you give a campaign free ad space for which you charge others, it's an in-kind contribution. But there are a lot of gray areas.

That's why it's time to seek greater clarity regarding the rules regarding "internet communications" in Virginia. The new federal rules (published March 27th) provide a helpful starting place. Under those rules, paid ads on blogs and payments for blogging services must be reported by campaigns. Otherwise blogging is pretty much exempt. There are other rules for mass emails, etc, that also deserve some thought.

Read the rules here, the FEC's FAQs here and some analysis here,and here.

Ethics and Standards of Conduct
Jim Bacon would be so pleased. Even the "wild westers" from last year seem to see some value in a voluntary code of ethics.

I agree with Mike Shear (WaPo reporter who was Saturday's lunch speaker) that, if a blogger wants to be seen as a journalist, a blogger has to act like a journalist -- not a repeater of idle gossip, innuendo and items of suspect truth.

I also believe that those of us in the blogospere who play varying roles, campaign worker, lobbyist, etc, owe it to our readers to make clear what role we are playing on our blogs or posts. Our profiles should contain sufficient information to allow readers to evaluate our biases. Specific posts should also include a disclaimer/other info where appropriate.

Pseudonymous blogging is not journalism. It is, like the Federalist Papers and other anonymous tracts, a platform for conveying a point of view without having to take responsibility for it or to hide from readers the bias/posture/profession/job of the author. That said, like the Federalist Papers, it is not inherently bad nor without redeeming social value.

Anonymous posting is the tool of the paid blogger or the troll or the irresponsible person or the person who wouldn't have the nerve to say or want to be judged for saying what he/she posts and who doesn't want to be tied to his/her doggerel even by a regularly used pseudonym.

EJournalism or Community
Bloggers need to decide 1) whether they are journalists (like Jim Bacon) who create an environment in which they publish information and opinion and where comments will, like letters to the editor, be less frequent and more substantive ;
2) whether they are writers/commentators trying to create an interactive community where they write and other folks come to share their views and opinions (hopefully, respectfully and with some measure of maturity).

I think that it is difficult to try to be both, although some seem to think it possible or a goal to be sought.

In either case, as Waldo says, you set the standard and you get back what you send out. If you are mature, you get mature. If you are juvenile, you get juvenile.

My blog is, unfortunately, in that wasteland in between jounalism and community.

Not regular enough nor informed enough to be journalism, and not "friendly" enough to generate community.

I need to think about that.

Let me know what you think.


Bob said...

Blogger sign in is a real turnoff, Claire. Considering changing and you'll get more comments. Post mine if you like, but I can never get thrugh the hoops Blogger makes commenters jump thru.

Bloggers shouldn't trade in gossip, but as I pointed out to Mike at the conference, that's exactly what The Post and other papers did with the Swift Boat charges.

CG2 said...

Thanks for your note. I won't make you register again, but I will moderate comments. I'm just not willing to be a vehicle for some of the juvenile carrying on "out there." It's my blog and I'll moderate if I want to.... and I won't post comments from "anonymous." Gotta at least create a pseudonym so we can follow your "thread."

That said, I thought that your comments on WaPo were well taken. Do unto others and all that.


Not Larry Sabato said...

I don't why other people didn't attend, but I have a problem with a group like Sorenson telling us what we need to discuss. I didn't find the topics interesting.

I'm working with the Martinsville group, and I would hardly call it a conservative bloggers conference. I'd call it a grassroots one, organized by bloggers on topics we are interested in.

I do hope you can attend.

Romeocat said...

Hello, Claire - I'm sorry I missed you at the conference, too.

I'm going back and forth about my pseudonym - I like the small amount of privacy it gives my husband and daughter more than I'm concerned about me. Of course, a determined person with basic skills could certainly find out who I am pretty easily.

So, for me, I suppose it's habit, and I feel I can be a little more assertive as "Romeocat" than I am as the "real me." However, the two are, essentially, the same.

I'm not sure which workshops you attended on Saturday; the first one I had was "Ethics and Blogging." Near the end, I made the comment that each of us has a personal responsibility to behave rationally and courteously. After we have policed our own behavior, then it's our... Hm. "Duty" is a bit strong, but it's the only word coming to mind... We have the duty to go to our blog friends/family from time to time when they appear to be crossing the line.

***Absolutely*** we shouldn't be busy-bodies and nosey, but sometimes a gentle query, "Is this what you really meant to say/mean?" in private can work wonders.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope we have the opportunity to meet face-to-face sometime. I will be at Martinsville in August, so if you're there, we need to look each other up.

Best blessings!

-- R'cat

I'm Not Emeril said...

I am working on this with Barnie Day, for goodness sake!

"Perhaps we should all go to Collinsville to seek to rebuild communications across the silly battle lines drawn this summer, that is, if those of us who participated in this weekend's meeting are "allowed" to attend the other."

That line is offensive to me. Have you seen our speakers list? Did you even know that Barnie was my co-chair? Just how much do you know about this event you seem so willing to slam?

This is not a "Conservative conference" and there are numerous Democratic bloggers who would be glad to fill you in on my integrity in that regard.

I was in Charlottesville Friday evening, but was not able to stay over for Saturday. Waldo and I had some differences a few weeks ago regarding the Sorensen conference, but that is past. Friday night we had a great conversation and the subject never came up. For you now to pretend that you and other liberals are not welcome is either deliberately misleading or terribly ill-informed.

You have my phone number from a previous moderated post on this subject. I do welcome your phone call.
Alton B. Foley
Collinsville, VA

CG2 said...

Thanks for your note, R'Cat. I am planning to go to the August conference if my schedule permits. I look forward to meeting you.


CG2 said...

Alton, NLS and the anonymous commenter whose comment I rejected not for content but because I don't post anonymous comments on my blog:

My comments about the division in the blogosphere and the nature of the other C'ville meeting were based on impressions about the conference I got from reading blogs. I haven't seen the program or the speakers because I haven't received any information directly and frankly I haven't been able to find any actual descriptive info on the conference, and I have looked (but obviously not in the right places).

I am sorry that you found my characterization of the intra-community spat about the Sorenson conference offensive. I stand by my assessment that the spat was "silly" and seemed powered more by egos than reason. I never heard or read anything that would suggest that Sorenson forced anything on anyone ... only that bloggers who thought that they should be consulted weren't. That's a process issue that I'm sure the folks at Sorenson would have been pleased to respond to if they'd been given the opportunity. From what I read on the blogs (my only source of info on this issue), however, I never saw any reasoned discussion ... only snarky remarks and hurt egos.

I apologize for confusing folks by using the line "conservative conference". That's the impresssion I got from reading blogs and from the decision of many conservative bloggers to attend the August meeting in preference to the Sorenson conference and, frankly, from descriptions of the Sorenson conference by some bloggers in attendance.

However, if you read my comment closely, you'll see that the divide I identified was between those bloggers who attended Sorenson and those who chose not to and to work on an alternative meeting... it wasn't between liberal and conservative bloggers.

It does seem, howver, that there's a need for better publicity about what you're planning in Collinsville and the reasons why it seemed necessary to divide the community by doing two events rather than try to make the second Sorenson meeting fit better your image of what it should be.

Or, perhaps you all tried and my impression that you just took your ball and went elsewhere because your feelings were hurt is unfair ... but it is the impression that I got from reading the commentary on this issue on your blogs and others.

I'm not "pretending" that liberals aren't welcome in August nor trying to "mislead" anyone. And, I am certainly not questionning anyone's integrity. I am questionning whether there was an unnecessary and artifical rift created in the community by those who didn't feel sufficiently included in planning for the Sorenson meeting.

Bottom line is that I'm just reflecting how this all "feels" to this one person who isn't in the inner blogocircle, hasn't been invited to the August meeting and who hasn't received any publicity about the event from any source.

I look forward to talking with you, Alton, and to learning more about what you are planning.


I'm Not Emeril said...

If you truly look forward to speaking with me about this, then why have you not phoned?
I left you my phone number in two previous comments, both being posted before 5:00pm.
Your "apology" is posted at 8:37. This comment will post at about 9:00pm. You've had over 4 hours and an invitation to talk to me.

Please do so.

CG2 said...

As I've mentioned in emails offline, the number you sent me to call was the wrong number. I called it as soon as I logged in and found your comment (I do have a life; I am not online continuously on Sunday afternoons/evenings). I also sent you an email telling you that I had the wrong number. So, I tried to meet your demand although apparently not with the urgency and singlemindedness that you expected.

CG2 said...

Is there a link that you could post here that would lead me and others to information online about the August meeting in Collinsville?

CG2 said...

Ah,here is one that has some specifics:


CG2 said...

So, if you've come by to read the thread about the conference, I hope that you'll take the time to read some of the other parts of my post and let me know if you have thoughts on anything else I said.