On Day 2, I skipped out on the morning sessions of BlogHer in order to meet up with the Chicago Kimchi Mamas. When I got back, I had planned to go to Stefania's panel on making money with your blog, just to be in solidarity with my Kimchi Sistah-Friend. The room was so crowded, I couldn't get in the door, so I went to the one I was most curious about: How to Write Great Political Coverage.
Professor Kim Pearson was leading the discussion, and on the panel were Faye Anderson and Katharine Daniels. Because it was a relatively small group, Kim was able to break us up into small groups of four or five and asked us to discuss the question: Is a political blogger the same as a blogger who writes about politics?
I was in a great group, and unfortunately, we didn't have a chance to exchange cards. We discussed our ideas about this topic, and thought that a "political blogger" was one who took a particular point of view and sought to argue in favor of that point of view. A person who blogs about politics might be one who blogs about politics as a more general topic, or more objectively. We wondered if a "food blogger" was the same as someone who blogs about food, or a "mommyblogger" is the same as one who blogs about parenting.
Some takeaways from this session:
- Be clear about who you think you are and what you are covering. Let audience know what what you are trying to accomplish. Have to have clarity on what you are doing and develop your own sense of mission.
- Be transparent with your audience. If someone comes to your blog, and reads something on a particular candidate, they may assume that you support that candidate. If you say something negative about a candidate, they may assume that you support the other side.
- Do your homework and consider the opposing argument and respond to it specifically.
- Make policy interesting by using YouTube and other multi-media sources to jazz it up. Make stories accessible by providing interesting links and other related content.
- Use the original source materials, and not what someone else reported. Don't rely on what the AP has to say about a particular document. Go the website and read it yourself. E-mail the person who drafted the report and try to get a statement.
- Call people on the phone. Ask if they were quoted correctly in the mainstream press, or if anything was left out of the stories you read.
- Let your humanity into pieces.
- Politics is about process. The story doesn't stop at the decision point. Bloggers keep stories alive, when mainstream media has abandoned it.
- Think about what is not being covered. Mainstream press has a tendency to lose things that are part of the process. Journalists might not have resources or expertise to delve into the details and follow it all the way through.
- News media runs on a business model. It is skewed by the perspectives of advertisers or most attractive audience. For example, in 2003 Bush went to Africa, so Kim read African newspapers, then NY Times and Washington Post. It was fascinating what was reported and what was not in the US press.
- Role of citizen journalists is to fill in the gaps. Focus on your passion.
- Corporate ownership of newsblogs is the same as TV, mainstream.
- Try to change a blog post into letter to the editor. Bloggers often overlook how powerful a letter to the editor might be.
- One of the biggest pitfalls of political coverage is the failure to consider competing explanations for your data.
- Check out Women in Media & News, a media criticism blog.
- Political blogs are not diverse, but like-minded people blogging about thing they already agreed on. These blogs don't create opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to have conversations with each other and with Independents. The media presents extremes arguing against themselves, but most people are not on either extreme.
- Avoid ad hominem attack. Respond to an issue, don't create issue.
- Check out the book Unspun.
- Know about what you're writing about, do the research.
- Stay human.
I've written about the candidates that I've had the opportunity to meet or hear live on this blog, but I don't consider myself a political blogger. I was hoping to be able to write better about the issues that concern me, and this session gave me a lot of food for thought. I told a friend of mine that I should start a new blog called "The Undecided Democrat" because that's pretty much what I am right now. I hope that my reporting on what I see is useful to other undecideds, since I know not everyone has access to the candidates, and it seems like what is reported is only a small fraction of what they are actually saying.
Tonight, I have the opportunity to see John Edwards, so I will probably be taking a break from the BlogHer reporting to write about that later. Let's see if he measures up to his wife, Elizabeth.