Howard Dean Lauds Them as Welcome Counterweight

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BOSTON (AdAge.com) -- As the online diarists known as bloggers make their presence felt for the first time at a national political convention, former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean lauded
Photo: AP
A special area has been set up in Fleet Center for bloggers -- online diarists who post opinionated musings about current events to their Web pages.
them as a welcome counterweight to the work of mainstream media.

The Democratic National Committee has accredited 35 bloggers for the national convention being held here and also has its own blog. At the Fleet Center bloggers are on one floor of the conventional hall in a sort of bloggers street.

Gave bloggers legitimacy
Speaking to a breakfast gathering of bloggers near the Fleet Center yesterday, the unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination suggested that his campaign had given bloggers their legitimacy as a new form of media.

Blogs -- the word is a contraction of "Web logs" -- played a large role in Mr. Dean's campaign, which garnered national attention because of its aggressive and even revolutionary use of online methods to raise money, connect with voters and energize political organizers.

Although the term is used in a very loose way, bloggers are generally individuals who use Web pages as both a diary of commentary on current events and a chat room where readers can talk back. Overall, the blogging community is an opinion-slinging crowd that makes no pretense of objectivity or accuracy as defined by the principles of mainstream journalism.

Drawing substantial audiences
To the consternation of some journalists and media executives, some star bloggers have drawn substantial audiences, not to mention the interest of marketers and advertising agencies.

In his speech, Mr. Dean addressed the friction between bloggers and journalists and told the gathering of breakfasting bloggers that they should not be worried if the traditional media turn up their nose.

"If I were you I would not be insulted if someone said you weren't a real journalist," he said. "I don't mean to be catty about the press, but the real journalists are in a real bind. Their business has become entertainment, not news, and you can't do worse."

Mr. Dean placed much of the blame for the entertainmentization of the mainstream U.S. news business on Rupert Murdoch. He said Mr. Murdoch "is so good at what he does" that he has forced other media companies to follow his lead.

"Why are bloggers any worse than reporters, because, my God, have you read what is in the New York Post?" Mr. Dean asked to a round of laughter and applause.

'Two-way communications'
He said the political campaigns and mainstream media should be responding to the "two-way communications" potential between readers and publishers demonstrated by the blog movement. But, he said, traditional political organizers as well as media moguls were loath to consider such a dramatic change as directly engaging their readers all the time.

"A lot of is about giving up control. There are people [in the major media companies] who don't want this. They are the Rupert Murdochs, the CNNs and the NBCs and The New York Times. Because they are out of business. Fifty percent of the people under 25 get their news from the Daily Show and the Net. Those people are going to be 50 years old 25 years from now. Guess what is going to happen? A lot of media organizations are going to be forced to change their attitudes," he said.

(Mr. Dean could be on to something: Comedy Central's The Daily Show with John Stewart, which is often called a "fake" news program by its own host, last week won the Television Critics Association's award as the outstanding news and pubic affairs series during the 2003-04 TV season, beating out nominees such as Frontline and Meet the Press.)

Eric Shure, the official blogger for the Democratic National Committee, noted that "a lot of the bloggers have readerships dailies would die for and it continues to grow." He also suggested that the traditional media companies' coverage of the convention's bloggers will help boost blogger Web traffic even further.

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