At the Democratic and Republican conventions in 2004, bloggers were just coming into their own. Were these Internet pundits worthy of being credentialed as journalists, skeptics asked? Was blogging a passing fad, or a media breakthrough?
The answer is clear: Convention blogging is not only here to stay but--based on what's in store for the gatherings in Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul--it is also growing by leaps and bounds. The Democratic National Committee has credentialed a representative blogger from every state and territory to cover the party's 2008 convention. The DNC promises that these bloggers, including one representing Democrats living abroad, will have "unparalleled access" to state delegations and the convention hall floor. The embedded bloggers, in fact, will have better entree to the delegations than will traditional journalists, who will need to apply for a floor pass.
Aaron Myers, the director of online communications for the Democratic convention in Denver, acknowledges that bloggers and mainstream reporters are getting different treatment, but he emphasized that all media will have an opportunity to access the convention floor. "It is important to note," Myers adds, "that a lot of the convention business doesn't happen inside the convention hall."
Both parties decided to allow more bloggers this year compared with 2004, when Democrats credentialed more than 30 and Republicans authorized about a dozen. This year, Democrats say they have credentialed more than 120 bloggers, while Republicans say they are looking to credential as many as 200. Both committees also appear to have chosen bloggers who tend to hew to the party line.
"Bloggers are media just like other media," Myers contends. "They will be wearing the same credentials." Bloggers are able to reach a larger audience than traditional media, he adds, and thus can "introduce the Democratic nominee to more people."
A number of the left-of-center state bloggers selected by the Democrats do not see themselves as mainstream reporters. "I am too opinionated to be a journalist," says Linda Kellen Biegel of Alaska, the woman behind the blog Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis. "I know that I am not a journalist," says Matt Singer of the Montana blog Left in the West. "Maybe I am someone who has some political insight that can help people who have less political insight than I do." Ryan McLeod of Louisiana's Daily Kingfish says, "I am certainly not objective in any sense of the word."
Many of these bloggers have backgrounds in politics and say that their states' delegates are familiar with their work. Biegel says she and the members of the Alaska delegation will show up at the convention wearing the same T-shirt. "They know that I am going to write about the stuff that people need to know," she adds.
Arkansas delegates are likewise acquainted with state blogger Steve Harrelson, the majority leader of the state House of Representatives. Another familiar political face will be Tom Noyes of Delaware's TommyWonk blog, who has worked on communications for four political campaigns. Greg Palmer, the founder of Pennsylvania's Keystone Politics blog, now lives in New York City and works for Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration. He previously worked on Capitol Hill for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
None of these blogs is known for being particularly critical of the Democratic Party at the national level. "My blog is more policy-driven than, say, personality-driven," Noyes says. "Folks know me. I know them. I imagine they are going to be comfortable with the kind of thing I am writing because I have done it for years."
As for the Republicans, Matt Burns, director of communications for the GOP convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul, said in an e-mail that the committee is generally treating bloggers as media outlets. "We understand and appreciate the importance of the blogosphere in providing information and shaping public opinion," he says. "We have bloggers from nearly every state that have been offered credentials, and we look forward to welcoming them to Minnesota."
Although bloggers in Denver will have a distinct advantage over their mainstream competitors, those in Minneapolis-St. Paul will have the same rights and access to information as traditional journalists.
Burns says that GOP convention officials are trying to "do our best to strike a balance between recognizing the growth of the blogosphere and the need to be fair to traditional outlets."
This article appears in the Aug. 2, 2008, edition of National Journal.